Quake toll rises to 7; aftershocks hamper rescue

As Mindanao braces for “The Big One” in the far south, the death toll from the latest major shock which rumbled underneath Davao del Sur last Sunday has reached seven, authorities confirmed Tuesday.

READ: 6.8 quake jolts Davao; kid dies

The magnitude 6.9 quake struck south of President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown Davao City, cracking thousands of concrete structures across the region, with rescuers using sniffer dogs and heartbeat detectors sifting through the rubble for the second day to find survivors.

While Davao del Sur Rep. Mercedes Cagas appealed to the public to help her province, the mayor of one of the worst-hit areas Padada town executive Pedro Caminero Jr. said the collapsed three-story building of a grocery store was built above a fault line.

Speaking in Filipino, Caminero told News Night “I think the building was built in 1990. But the problem was built on a fault line.”

He added six bodies were believed to be still trapped in the collapsed building.

In the trading town of Padada, Davao del Sur, rescuers have pulled three bodies from a collapsed grocery store where two other fatalities are still trapped, said disaster officer Christopher Tan.

Rains and strong aftershocks temporarily suspended retrieval operations until 8 a.m. Tuesday, he said.

Tan told radio dzMM that based on the devices they were using, “we can no longer find any heartbeat inside.”

According to the Department of Education, scrambling for funds to replace destroyed facilities, said 31 schools were among the structures destroyed by the weekend earthquake which affected 370,000 students.

The number of damaged schools, based on initial reports from Davao and SOCCSKSARGEN regions, is expected to increase as hundreds of aftershocks rock the area, said DepEd Spokesperson and Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla.

Sunday’s quake, which sent 9,565 people to evacuation centers, has generated some 700 aftershocks, the strongest of which is magnitude 5.2, the state seismology office PHIVOLCS said Tuesday.

Four other quakes with magnitudes above 6 have struck Mindanao since October.

The DepEd earlier requested P3 billion from the Department of Budget and Management to repair schools damaged by the tremors. 

This is on top of another P7 billion to repair facilities destroyed by calamities since 2017, said Sevilla.

Around 50 buildings in Padada which were built in the 1970s and 80s can no longer be used due to the quake, he added.

Meanwhile, neighboring Matanao town recorded two fatalities, the latest an 81-year-old woman who succumbed to heart attack during the quakes, said Mayor Vincent Fernandez.

The town’s other fatality was a six-year-old girl who was crushed by her collapsed family home, he said.

The quake displaced 8,000 families in Matanao, of whom 3,000 have either partially damaged or totally destroyed homes, said the mayor.

State geologists said Digos City would be most affected in case Mindanao’s “Big One” hit the island and Cagas said Davao del Sur’s calamity fund had been exhausted, due to earthquakes that rocked the Davao Region and nearby provinces.

Cagas is married to Davao del Sur Gov. Douglas Cagas.

“It’s not like a typhoon that we can prepare for. This earthquake will come anytime. We cannot predict when and how strong is the quake,” Cagas told reporters, citing information from PHIVOLCS.

The people in the area, including government officials, have been “traumatized,” Cagas said.

Because of fear, thousands of people, including the governor, are no longer sleeping inside their houses that have been damaged anyway, she added.

“This is the kind of calamity that affects everybody, whether President or governor, all of us have damaged houses,” Cagas said.

“The governor is no longer sleeping inside our house, but we are using the tent outside.”

Provincial officials are set to have a meeting Wednesday to plot “safe” zones where Mindanaoans could evacuate should another temblor strike the region.

According to Cagas, the Department of Agriculture has committed to help restore the damaged farm to market roads.

Seedlings will also be given to farmers who lost their crop, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said.

The recent 6.9-magnitude quake that jolted Mindanao over the weekend left at least 7 dead after it generated some 700 aftershocks and toppled some 31 schools.

READ: Quake victims gain 5k bottles of drinking water

READ: 3rd quake kills five in Mindanao

Topics: “The Big One” , death toll , Davao del Sur , Rodrigo Duterte , Mercedes Cagas
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