MANILA: The southern Philippines woke up to a powerful earthquake on Tuesday, which killed at least seven people and injured hundreds. The disaster comes as traumatized residents are still recovering from a similar incident from two weeks ago.
The Philippines Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said the 6.6 magnitude quake of tectonic origin struck some 26 km northeast of Tulunan in Cotabato at 9:04 a.m.
Many of the affected areas were still recovering from the 6.3 magnitude tremor that struck on Oct. 16.
In Tulunan town, a pregnant woman was killed after she was struck by a piece of wood outside her home as she tried to run for cover.
The town’s mayor, Reuel Limbungan, said 90 percent of the structures, including schools and health centers, had either collapsed or were totally damaged.
“All schools in the three villages were totally destroyed. It was very traumatic for the children,” said Limbungan. Children were in classes when the earthquake struck.
The mayor said some of the students had to crawl out of the debris after their classrooms crumbled.
Tsai Via, a teacher at Daig Elementary School in Tulunan, said in a radio interview that parents and teachers “had to pull children from under the rubble.”
An earthquake-triggered landslide isolated a village with 4,000 residents.
In Magsaysay town, police reported that approximately 300 people were injured, although most of them only sustained minor injuries.
Cpl. Kristen Nahine said two people were killed: A 15-year-old student who was hit by debris while evacuating to safer ground, and a woman who was buried in a landslide.
Nahine added that two people were reported missing.
In Koronadal, South Cotabato, an elderly man was killed after he was hit by fallen debris while helping to rebuild an evangelical church.
A father and his young child died in Lanao Kuran, South Cotabato, after a huge rock rolled on them while they were at their farm. Another fatality was reported in Digos City.
Authorities said up to 108 people were injured in Cotabato.
Videos posted on social media showed panicked office workers screaming as they ran into open spaces. Hospital patients were evacuated.
The earthquake left many areas without electricity, while classes were ordered suspended for the rest of the week.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the national government is closely monitoring the situation in Mindanao following the strong earthquake.
“We ask our citizens to remain calm but vigilant and we urge them to refrain from spreading disinformation that may cause undue alarm, panic and stress to many people. We also urge them to monitor developments through the alerts and bulletins of official government channels,” said Panelo.
“All responsible government agencies and local government units are currently undertaking rapid damage assessment and analysis of affected areas and communities in order to properly assess the situation and coordinate rescue and relief operations,” he added.