By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz, Zea Capistrano, and Argyll Cyrus Geducos
A six-year-old girl died when the wall of her house collapsed during a powerful 6.9-magnitude earthquake that shook anew the southern region Sunday.
Matanao Mayor Vincent F. Fernandez said the fatality was inside their house in Barangay Asinan, Matanao, Davao del Sur, when she was hit on the head by the wall of their house which collapsed due to the intensity of the quake. She was rushed to the Disaster Center but was pronounced dead on arrival.
Fernandez said his town suffered severe damage, including two bridges that bore cracks and half of the municipal hall which collapsed.
Aftershocks were being felt in the area every 30 minutes, Fernandez added.
“Please pray for us,” Davao del Sur Gov. Douglas Cagas appealed.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) recorded the earthquake around 2:11 p.m. and traced its epicenter 9 kilometers northwest of Matanao, Davao del Sur.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no tsunami threat from the quake, based on available data.
There were no immediate reports of injuries, but the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said damage and aftershocks could be expected.
Two strong aftershocks of magnitude 5 and 5.7 centered north of General Santos City were recorded after the main tremor.
Radio DZMM reported power was out in General Santos City, where patients at a local hospital were being evacuated.
Duterte family safe
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said President Duterte and his family are safe following the strong earthquake.
In a text message to reporters, Panelo said the President was in his house in Davao City while his wife Honeylet Avanceña was on the road when the quake happened.
“He (President Duterte) is okay. He and his daughter Kitty were in their house when the quake struck,” he said.
“First Lady Honeylet was on her way home [when the] ground trembled. She said her car was swaying. She is unhurt,” he added.
Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) engineers were going to check the structural integrity of the President’s house because of the cracks that started to appear since the first quake that rocked Mindanao in October.
Malacañang said all concerned agencies were instructed to respond to areas hit by the 6.9-magnitude quake that struck Mindanao Sunday and to provide assistance to those in need.
Panelo assured the public that the Palace was on top of the situation. He said all concerned agencies were mobilized to provide assistance to those affected by the quake.
“The Executive Branch, through the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), together with the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), is closely monitoring the situation in Davao del Sur after a 6.9-magnitude earthquake hit the area at past 2 p.m. this Sunday,” he said.
“All concerned agencies of the government have been mobilized to respond to the present conditions and provide immediate assistance to those in need,” he added.
The Office of the President, meanwhile, requested the public to remain calm but stay vigilant in anticipation of aftershocks. The public was also discouraged from spreading disinformation that may cause undue alarm and panic among affected communities.
Classes were suspended in the whole of Davao del Sur on Monday, December 16.
The earthquake was felt as a “destructive” tremor at Intensity VII in Matanao and Magsaysay in Davao del Sur.
It was recorded as a “very strong” earthquake at Intensity VI in Kidapawan City; General Santos City; Bansalan, Davao del Sur; Alabel and Malapatan, Sarangani; and Koronadal City.
The ground shaking was recorded at Intensity V or “strong” shaking in Tulunan and Matalam, Cotabato; Cotabato City; Davao City; and Glan, Sarangani.
The quake was recorded at Intensity III as a “weak” shaking in Kalilangan, Talakag, and Dangcagan in Bukidnon.
Impasugong, Bukidnon; Cagayan de Oro City; and Dipolog City felt the earthquake at Intensity II as a “slight” shaking, while it was “scarcely perceptible” at Intensity I in Zamboanga del Sur.
Phivolcs’ instruments recorded the tremor at Intensity VIII as a “very destructive” quake in Malungon, Sarangani.
It said the quake was tectonic in origin, which means the tremor was caused by the movement of an active fault in the area.
The tremor was shallow at a depth of 3 kilometers, thus the strong shaking. This was the fourth major quake to hit Mindanao since October.
Phivolcs said aftershocks and damage are expected.
Classes were suspended in Cotabato City on Monday, December 16.
Police forces mobilized
Police forces in Davao Region were mobilized to assist in the search, rescue, and other post-disaster action following the 6.9-magnitude quake that hit Davao del Sur.
Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa, officer-in-charge of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said he immediately ordered the regional director of Police Regional Office 11, Brig. Gen. Filmore Escobal, to consolidate police efforts to assist the affected residents.
“I instructed the PRO 11 to mobilize all police units and immediately respond to the situation to ensure the safety of the public,” said Gamboa.
Police said rescue operations are ongoing.
“We assure the public that the PNP remains alert and vigilant to prevent occurrence of crimes even as we attend to the safety needs of the people affected by the earthquake,” said Gamboa.
Mall shoppers scamper for safety
The three-storey Southern Grocery Store in Davao del Sur collapsed and unconfirmed reports indicated that some shoppers were trapped inside.
Shoppers in one of the biggest malls in Kuidapawan City scampered for safety while some are believed to be still trapped inside when the magnitude 6.9 quake hit the city, Davao, South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City (Soccsksargen), and other regions in Mindanao at around 211 p.m. yesterday.
Shoppers said they heard and saw several broken kitchen and glass wares at the mall’s second floor.
Caryl Joy, a shopper, said: “I saw children crying and looking for their mothers. Some of them were placed inside the play house while their parents were doing the grocery,” she said.
Grocery stores and food chains immediately closed when the earthquake struck.
The strongest aftershock, so far, was registered at 5.9-magnitude at around 3:09 p.m.
NDRRMC Executive Director Ricardo Jalad said a stall at Padada Public Market in Padada, Davao del Sur collapsed during the quake.
He said they have yet to validate reports that there were vendors and market-goers in the area when the structure collapsed.
Rescue operations were already being conducted by the Davao del Sur Rescue Team as of this writing, he said.
“No reported casualties as of the moment,” Jalad said.
He said that the damage caused by the quake was already being assessed. (With reports from Antonio Colina IV, Malu Cadelina Manar, Aaron Recuenco, and Reuters)