By Aaron Recuenco, Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz, Marjaleen Ramos, and Armando Fenequito Jr.
At least nine people died while more than 400 others were injured when a 6.6-magnitude earthquake hit the central part of Mindanao and nearby areas almost two weeks after the same areas were jolted by a 6.3 magnitude tremor.
The strong quake also knocked out power in some areas, sent people out of their homes and office buildings, and forced the suspension of classes.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) traced the origin of the 6.6-magnitude earthquake 25 kilometers (km) southeast of Tulunan, Cotabato – near the epicenter of the 6.3-magnitude quake last October 16.
The moderately strong earthquake was felt around 9:04 a.m. on Tuesday.
According to Phivolcs science research assistant Maila Advincula, 98 aftershocks have been recorded as of 2 p.m. Tuesday. This includes a powerful quake measuring 6.1-magnitude on the Richter scale recorded around 10:42 a.m. that originated 17 km southeast of Tulunan town.
Of this number, 65 tremors were plotted from their original source, while only 13 quakes were felt.
Four of the fatalities were reported in Magsaysay town in Davao del Sur where more or less 300 other residents were reported injured.
Corporal Krister John Nahine, spokesman of the Magsaysay Municipal Police Station, said two of the victims died in a landslide in Barangay Upper Bala. He identified them as Guilbert Suprales and Miggy Atik, both 33 years old.
Nahine said the two other fatalities are Jessie Parba, a Grade 9 student, who died after being hit by falling debris; while another one was reported dead in Barangay Tagaytay.
“The area where the landslide occurred is still not passable. Our rescue teams are having difficulty reaching the place because of the aftershocks,” Nahine told the Manila Bulletin in a phone interview.
Mark Timbal, spokesman of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), said one of the victims identified as Nestor Narciso succumbed to head injury and laceration after he was hit by falling debris in Koronadal City during the earthquake Tuesday morning.
A father and his six-year-old son were also reported dead in Barangay Lanao Kuran in Arakan, North Cotabato due to rockfall. Cotabato Gov. Emily Lou Mendoza had earlier confirmed two deaths in Barangay Lanao Kuran, Arakan town, but she could not provide their identities.
A 23-year-old pregnant woman was also believed to have died in Tulunan town of North Cotabato while another person was also reported dead in Digos City.
“We also received reports that there were at least 30 injured people in Kidapawan City and 13 more in M’lang, North Cotabato,” said Timbal.
Corporal Krister Iohn Nahine, spokesperson of the Magsaysay Police Station in Davao del Sur, said two people also died in their town.
Nahine said Jessie Parba, a Grade 9 student, died after being hit by falling debris while another one was reported dead in Barangay Tagaytay.
“A landslide also occurred in Barangay Upper Bala where two people were reported missing while another one was injured,” said Nahine.
According to Nahine, more or less 300 people were reported injured in their town.
Rolly Aquino, chief of Operations and Warning Unit of the Provincial government of South Cotabato said that they received reports that at least 70 people sustained minor injuries.
Based on the initial data obtained by the Manila Bulletin, several people also lost consciousness while others suffered difficulty in breathing due to fear at the peak of the tremor in northern and central part of Mindanao.
Lt. Col. Mardy Hortilosa, spokesman of the Northern Mindanao regional police, said there were no reported death or injuries in the region but reported some damage in infrastructure.
Hortilosa said the strong quake caused visible cracks on walls and floors of the administration building and classrooms at least three schools, an outlet at the Ayala Centrio Mall and a call center building.
“There were three people who reportedly collapsed while another one suffered panic attack,” said Hortilosa.
In Iligan City, nine students also fainted due to fear of the quake.
Timbal said local OCD teams were already sent to all the affected areas in Mindanao to check on the casualties, number of residents affected and damage to infrastructure.
The Davao City Police Office reported that 38-year-old Sherwin Bacalla Cuico and 36-year-old Jane Yabo Tagalo, both employees of the Mintal branch of the Tagum Cooperative, were taken to the Davao Adventist Church after a signage of their office building fell on them as the workers were evacuating.
In North Cotabato, a wall collapsed in Colegio de Kidapawan, while in Davao del Sur, the Gaisano Grand Mall of Digos suffered damage.
Meanwhile, power outages were experienced in General Santos City, Polomok in South Cotabato, Ledesma Street in Sultan Kudarat, and Carmen in North Cotabato following the earthquake, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) reported.
The Tuesday quake occurred while authorities are still reeling from the impact of a strong earthquake that hit almost the same area almost two weeks ago.
On the night of October 16, at least seven people died while more than 200 others were injured due to a 6.3 magnitude quake that hit North Cotabato and other areas.
The quake also triggered fire in mall and caused the collapse of some structures. Hundreds of houses were also either totally damaged or partially destroyed.
“The damage caused by previous quake to some establishments in Digos City in Davao del Sur worsened after this morning (Tuesday) quake,” said Leslie Francisco, spokesperson of the Office of Civil Defense inDavao region.
Work, class suspension
Classes in the affected areas were already suspended as part of the safety measures for the students. Some of the damaged infrastructures are schools.
Work in several government offices was also suspended.
The 6.6-magnitude earthquake was felt at Intensity 7 as a “destructive” tremor in Tulunan and Makilala in Cotabato, Kidapawan City, and Malungon in Sarangani province.
Phivolcs said the earthquake was felt as a “very strong” tremor at Intensity 6 in Davao City, Koronadal City, and Cagayan de Oro City; and “strong” tremblor at Intensity 5 in Tampakan, Surallah and Tupi in South Cotabato, and Alabel in Sarangani.
Intensity 4 or “moderately strong” tremor was registered in General Santos City; Kalilangan, Bukidnon; and Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental.
Meanwhile, the quake was recorded at Intensity 3 as a “weak” shaking in Sergio Osmeña Sr., Zamboanga del Norte; Zamboanga City; Dipolog City; Molave, Zamboanga del Norte; and Talakag, Bukidnon.
Zamboanga City felt the earthquake at Intensity 2 as a “slight” shaking, while it was “scarcely perceptible” at Intensity 1 in Mambajao, Camiguin; Dipolog City; Bislig City; and Palo, Leyte.
No tsunami threat
Phivolcs noted that there was no destructive tsunami threat to the Philippines.
Science and Technology Undersecretary and Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum said both the 6.6-magnitude and 6.3-magnitude earthquakes are “related.”
The area is seismically active thus the earthquake events are “ongoing,” Solidum pointed out.
He advised the public to be on alert for possible aftershocks.
The 6.1-magnitude quake was felt Intensity 6 in Kidapawan City, Intensity 5 in Malungon, Sarangani, Intensity 4 in Tupi, South Cotabato and Alabel, Sarangani, Intensity 3 in Rosario, Agusan Del Sur; Gingoog City; Cagayan de Oro City; General Santos City; and Kiamba, Sarangani, and Intensity 1 in Zamboanga City.
Phivolcs earlier explained that Central Mindanao (SOCCSKSARGEN), where Cotabato province is situated, is a seismically active area in the Philippines because of the presence of the western extension of the Mindanao Fault called the Cotabato-Sindangan Fault.
This active fault traverses Sarangani province to northwest of Zamboanga Peninsula.
Cotabato Trench is also a major source of earthquakes which can affect the region.
In addition, there are other nearby local faults, some of which may be covered by recent deposits, and could be sources of small to strong magnitude earthquakes. (With reports from AP and Mike Crismundo)