By Manuel T. Cayon & Jonathan L. Mayuga
Another strong earthquake hit Cotabato on Thursday morning, the third to hit the same area this month, sending people scrambling to open spaces seeking safety, as thousands of affected families are still reeling from the two previous earthquakes.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) is verifying reports that a barangay chairman was killed by falling debris of a covered court in Makilala, a first-class municipality in the Province of Cotabato.
So far, the three earthquakes have resulted in the death of eight people and injuries to 395 people, according to Mark Timbal, spokesman of the NDRRMC.
“Our operations in the affected areas are ongoing. Hopefully, there will be no more reported casualties,” Timbal said.
The 6.5-magnitude earthquake which struck Cotabato around 9:11 a.m. on Thursday sent frantic residents scampering for safety outside residential and commercial buildings.
One such mid-rise condominium building outside downtown Davao City partially collapsed on the third strong quake after being condemned by engineers last Tuesday after the second quake.
Davao City Hall extended the suspension of all classes and work in public offices up to Monday (November 4) to reassess the effect of the temblor.
The second floor of the five-story Ecoland 4000 condominium collapsed on Thursday morning, bringing the entire building one floor down, with wide cracks at its center. Nine occupants were injured and were rescued, eight of them treated on site, and one sent to a hospital for treatment of a laceration at the forehead.
The epicenter of Thursday’s quake was located 33 kilometers northeast of Talunan, Cotabato, near the epicenters of the 6.6-magnitude earthquake last October 29 and a 6.3-magnitude tremor recorded on October 16, also in Cotabato.
Phivolcs Deputy Director Bart Bautista told the BusinessMirror the earthquakes are all tectonic. “Earthquakes happening in the same area several times is normal because of the movement of plates underground. There are several local active faults in the area, so we expect more earthquakes to happen,” he said.
Warning on landslides
Phivolcs is ruling out the possibility of tsunamis, Bautista advised concerned LGUs, particularly in areas where the tremors were strongly felt, to be cautious against the possibility of landslides.
“Landslides can happen in steep slopes in the affected areas,” he said.
“We’ve already monitored cracks in steeps slopes in some areas. This means the soil is unstable and this could result in landslides. It is best for LGUs to evacuate people at risk, if there are any, to safer grounds to avoid disaster,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Aside from the Cotabato area, intensity 7 ground shaking was also felt in Kidapawan City, Santa Cruz, Matanao, Bansalan and Magsaysay in Davao del Sur.
Intensity 4 to 6 were felt in Tampakan, South Cotabato, General Santos City; Tupi, and Isulan, and Lebak, in Sultan Kudarat, all the way to Gingoog City and Cagayan de Oro City where an intensity 3 earthquake was recorded.
Since the first earthquake, a 6.3-magnitude that struck on October 16, residents of affected areas have started to evacuate. The evacuation continued as a stronger 6.6-magnitude earthquake was felt anew.
So far, a total of 4,604 individuals are currently staying in three emergency evacuation centers, said Timbal. These evacuation centers—one in Magsaysay, Davao del Sur, and two in Makilala and Kidapawan City in North Cotabato—are now providing temporary shelter to 2,035 individuals.
Timbal credited the concerned LGUs with immediately providing the evacuees their basic needs such as food, water and medicine, as is the NDRRMC protocols.
“We have a regulation that LGUs, in case of natural calamities, will take care of the evacuees. There is already prepositioned food, water and medicines in the areas near the evacuation centers,” he said.
Aside from evacuees sheltered in the three evacuation centers, 2,035 others have opted to put up camps in open spaces near their homes, Timbal said.
According to Timbal, all evacuees are adequately provided for by LGUs, but he said the NDRRMC has sent augmentation supply to the affected areas as early as Wednesday.
“Just in case the local supply runs out, the augmentation supplies will be used,” he said.
Meanwhile, he cautioned the public against spreading or passing on “fake news” predicting the next strong earthquake.
“We advise the public not to believe in these hoaxes because they only add to the tension and cause panic. We advise the public to monitor official reports from the NDRRMC and Phivolcs only,” said Timbal.
Cracks on building
The 56-room Ecoland condominium in Davao City was recommended to be condemned after city engineers found cracks on the building during the second strong quake on Tuesday (October 29). Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said city engineers visited the condominium and already informed the building administrator a day earlier. She also called on the administrator to check if they were informed of the order to condemn the building. She said the administrator confirmed the information but disclosed some renters did not heed the information, purportedly because they have nowhere to transfer immediately.
The mayor was told that only 15 rooms were occupied that time. A check by 911 Emergency responders from the rooftop down to the third floor found no one nor did they hear of any distress call. The responders have been helped by a Coast Guard canine unit trained to sniff cadavers to check on the second and lower floors.
Duterte-Carpio said the second floor had collapsed and the 911 responders have to use a boom equipment to avoid touching anything that might cause further damage.
Elsewhere, Duterte-Carpio disclosed that cracks and damage were found in the two main bridges in downtown. Engineers will reassess the Bankerohan Bridge over the new cracks found and have limited the entry of vehicles at the Bolton Bridge to only below 20 tonnage weight, saying engineers detected a damage on the diaphragm wall of the bridge.
She said there was no tsunami alert or warning.
NGCP sustains damage
The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) said it sustained damage to its Kidapawan City substation due to Thursday’s earthquake but assured the public its Mindanao transmission backbone is intact.
It did not elaborate on the extent of the damage but said it has made “necessary technical adjustments.” For the meantime, it shifted the load to Tacurong substation while it was undertaking measures to restore transmission services to affected customers.
It said there were no other reports of transmission facilities or high-voltage equipment affected in the areas where the earthquake was felt.