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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Quake toll now at 9, could rise further — gov’t

The number of people killed in a powerful quake off Mindanao rose to nine, the national disaster agency said Monday, warning the toll could increase further.

People fled into the streets or hid under tables when the 6.8-magnitude quake struck Sarangani on Friday, causing buildings to shake and part of a ceiling inside a shopping mall to collapse.

At least 15 people were injured, and more than 800 houses damaged or destroyed, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said in its latest update.

The death toll steadily rose over the weekend as searchers found more bodies buried under rubble or soil.

Search operations have largely ended, but the disaster agency said it was still receiving data from some of the dozens of villages affected by the earthquake.

“I’m hoping to God that our death toll won’t go up anymore, but we’re still waiting for the information coming from the regions,” NDRRMC deputy spokesman Mark Timbal told AFP.

The state seismology service said the quake was likely generated by the movement of the earth’s crust along the Cotabato trench, a long, narrow depression on the seafloor that forms the boundary of one tectonic plate pushing against another.

Phivolcs said it was studying if liquefaction could be the cause of the fissures found in some parts of earthquake-hit Glan in Sarangani, Mindanao.

Bhenz Rodriguez, science research specialist, said they are now assessing the damaged areas and other hazards resulting from the tremor.

“One of the outputs of our team we sent to the area is to check the damage effects, to check if there are fissures, what extent of the landslide is, or if a sea level disturbance was experienced,” he said.

Liquefaction takes place when loosely packed, water-logged sediments at or near the ground surface lose their strength in response to strong ground shaking.

“The ground loses its strength to hold a building. It softens, that is why the ending is all houses and buildings on top of the liquefaction-prone area could possibly tilt or collapse,” Rodriguez said.

As this developed, a magnitude 5.6 earthquake struck Samar Monday afternoon.

The tectonic quake’s epicenter was 16 kilometers southeast of Calbiga town, Phivolcs said in its initial advisory.

The quake was felt at “moderately strong” Intensity 4 in Palo, Leyte while Intensity 5 was recorded in Catbalogan City in Samar.

The Philippines is regularly hit by earthquakes as it sits along the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of intense seismic as well as volcanic activity.

For his part, Senator Christpher Go renewed his call for the creation of a Department of Disaster Resilience to ensure a more proactive disaster preparedness and response and faster return to normalcy.

Go said the proposed department will manage the evacuation of affected residents and the preposition of relief goods. With AFP

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