A STRONG earthquake jolted Davao del Sur on Sunday, killing at least one person and causing a three-story building to collapse, setting off a search for an unspecified number of people who were feared to have been trapped inside, officials said.
The 6.9-magnitude earthquake that struck Davao del Sur on Sunday afternoon sent a fresh wave of panic across many parts of the Davao region, North Cotabato and South Cotabato. These areas were jolted by three earthquakes last October.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said the quake struck an area about 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) northwest of Padada town in Davao del Sur at a depth of 30 kilometers (18 miles). It was tectonic in origin and occurred at 2:11 p.m.
A child died in a village in Davao del Sur’s Matanao town when a wall of her house tumbled down as the ground shook and hit her in the head, officials said.
Davao del Sur Gov. Douglas Cagas said a three-story building housing a grocery store collapsed in downtown Padada during the quake, trapping an unspecified number of people inside.
Initial reports from a local disaster officer told the Philippine Information Agency that the town’s favorite grocery store, the three-storey Southern Trade, collapsed and trapped shoppers. Four of them, all injured, have been rescued. It was not known if others were still trapped beneath the rubble.
Search and rescue efforts were under way, he said in a radio interview, adding that a still unknown number of people were injured in his province.
Several shoppers in Gaisano Mall in Davao City panicked, and many of them collapsed and had to be taken out of the area by ambulance. The mall was vacated shortly after the temblor.
Matanao Mayor Vincent Fernandez said his two-story town hall was badly damaged by the intense shaking, along with two bridges and several buildings already weakened by previous quakes.
“The shaking was different this time, it wasn’t swaying. It’s like a roller was rumbling by underneath,” Fernandez said in a radio interview from an emergency shelter. As he was being interviewed, he paused briefly, saying the ground was shaking again in the latest of dozens of aftershocks.
Fernandez appealed for food packs and tents to be used by residents who needed immediate shelter from the rainy weather. Many buildings that can be used as evacuation centers have been damaged by recent earthquakes, he said.
The Davao region has been hit by several earthquakes in recent months; causing some deaths, and scores of injuries and badly damaging houses, hotels, malls and hospitals.
The Philippine archipelago lies on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of faults around the Pacific Ocean where most of the world’s earthquakes occur. It’s also lashed by about 20 typhoons and storms each year, making the Southeast Asian nation of more than 100 million people one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries.
President Duterte ordered all concerned government agencies to provide aid to areas affected by the earthquake, according to Presidential Spokesman and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador S. Panelo.
“All concerned agencies of the government have been mobilized to respond to the present conditions and provide immediate assistance to those in need,” Panelo said in a statement. Malacañang appealed to those affected by the temblor to stay “calm but vigilant” due to the possible aftershocks and to disseminate only validated reports to avoid causing panic.
“The Executive Branch, through the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, and the Office of Civil Defense, together with the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, is closely monitoring the situation in Davao del Sur,” said Panelo.
Panelo issued the statement after announcing that Duterte and his family are safe in their home in Davao City.
“The President was in his house in Davao City with his daughter Kitty when the earthquake struck. The First Lady Honeylet Avanceña was on her way home when the ground rumbled and moved. She said the car she was riding was swaying. They are unhurt,” he said.
As of press time, the NDRRMC said it is still gathering reports from the areas devastated by the earthquake.
Manuel T. Cayon, Samuel P. Medenilla and AP