Magnitude 6.9 quake hits Davao; 1 dead

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    A MAGNITUDE 6.9 earthquake rocked Davao del Sur yesterday afternoon, leaving a six-year-old girl dead and many others injured.

    The quake, whose epicenter was some 9 km northwest of Matanao town, also damaged public and private structures.

    A grocery store collapsed in Padada town, trapping several persons who are now subject to search and rescue operations, said Gov. Douglas Cagas.

    Video footage posted by users on Twitter showed overhead electrical wires swaying and erupting in a shower of sparks. Another video showed water sloshing out of a hotel swimming pool.

    Brig. Gen. Filmore Escobal, chief of the Southern Mindanao police, said an incident command post was set up near the collapsed grocery.

    He said 24 injured persons have been rescued.

    Luke Caduyas, Padada town disaster risk reduction and management officer, said responders have sighted bodies but could not get inside the grocery building because of strong aftershocks. He said the third floor remained intact but the first and second floors collapsed.

    Caduyas expressed fears many were trapped inside the structure because it was a Sunday, “grocery time.”

    As of 4 p.m., 87 aftershocks have been recorded. The strongest was magnitude 5.6 which occurred at about 3 p.m., said Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).

    He said they are not ruling out stronger aftershocks that can cause the collapse of houses which were initially damaged by the tremor.

    Matanao was among areas affected by three strong quakes in September and October, which killed at least 20 persons.

    Phivolcs said yesterday’s quake occurred at around 2:11 p.m., was tectonic in origin, and had a depth of 3 km.

    President Duterte, who was in his home in Davao City, and his family, are “okay,” said presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo.

    The quake was felt at Intensity 5 in Davao City which is about 75 km from the epicenter.

    Phivolcs said the quake was felt at Intensity 7 in Matanao and Magsaysay town in Davao del Sur; Intensity 6 in Kidapawan City, General Santos City; Bansalan in Davao del Sur, Alabel and Malapatan in Sarangani, and Koronadal City; Intensity 5 in Tulunan and Matalam in Cotabato, Cotabato City, and Glan in Sarangani, aside from Davao City.

    Duterte was with daughter Veronica “Kitty” Duterte when the earthquake struck. His partner Honeylet Avanceña was on her way home and felt the ground rumbling and “the car she was riding was swaying,” said Panelo.

    “They are unhurt,” he also said.

    Brig. Gen. Jose Niembra, commander of the Presidential Security Group, said there was no new damage in the President’s house but it would still undergo structural inspection to ensure its safety.

    Matanao town mayor Vincent Fernandez said the fatality was from Matanao town. She was pinned by a collapsed wall of their house. He said the girl died on the spot.

    He also the town was badly hit, and municipal hall damaged had cracked walls.

    He said many houses and at least two bridges were also damaged by the quake, and structures damaged by recent past quakes are almost destroyed.

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    Fernandez appealed for assistance like tents, food and water.

    He said the social welfare department gave 13,000 food packs for victims of the past quakes. “May mga foodstuff pa kami dito pero hindi po ito enough… baka kulangin po,” said Fernandez.

    He said residents who evacuated have to live in tents. He said they cannot be brought to gyms, which are traditionally turned into evacuation centers, due to structural damage.

    Cagas said the three-storey Southern Grocery Store in Padada town collapsed during the tremor. He could not immediately say how many people were trapped.

    Cagas said he has ordered the suspension of classes for today.

    Cagas said many were reported injured in the province but could not immediately give a number.

    He asked for prayers and help.

    Ricardo Jalad, executive officer of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said the agency has not confirmed any fatality from the collapsed grocery.

    But he confirmed persons were trapped inside the grocery. He could not say how many.

    Asked to the damage caused by the quake, Jalad: “Very damaging… Among the incidents that we monitored is the collapsed structure (grocery store) in Padada. We are getting other information from other regions.”

    As to fatalities in other areas, Jalad said, “None yet, we have yet to receive any official report.” He said he has no information as to the number of people who were injured.

    Jalad, concurrent administrator of the Office of Civil Defense, said a landslide was also reported in Kidapawan City, based on reports from the military but there was no immediate report of casualties. “They sent people to the area to assess the damage, the effect,” he said.

    Anthony Allada, public information officer of nearby Magsaysay Town, said 14 people were injured but none seriously. Roads and buildings, including the local government office, were damaged and power was out in the town, he said.

    “We don’t know what to do anymore. Do we respond first or attend to our families first?” Allada told Radio dzMM. – With Jocelyn Montemayor and Reuters