Philippines earthquake kills seven, hundreds injured

A resident walks past destroyed houses after a 6.6-magnitude earthquake hit Tulunan town, North Cotabato province, on the southern island of Mindanao. (AFP)
Updated 29 October 2019

Philippines earthquake kills seven, hundreds injured

  • In Tulunan town, 90 percent of the structures, including schools and health centers, had either collapsed or were totally damaged
  • Videos posted on social media showed panicked office workers screaming as they ran into open spaces

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.


Indian president disregards protests, signs citizenship bill into law

Updated 13 December 2019

Indian president disregards protests, signs citizenship bill into law

  • The new law lays out a path of Indian citizenship for six minority religious groups from the neighboring countries
  • The law seeks to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled the three Muslim-majority neighboring countries

NEW DELHI: A divisive citizenship bill has been signed into law in India, a move that comes amid widespread protests in the country’s northeast that could force the cancelation of a visit by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Two people were killed and 11 injured on Thursday when police opened fire on mobs in Assam state torching buildings and attacking railway stations. Protesters say the law would convert thousands of illegal immigrants into legal residents.
The new law lays out a path of Indian citizenship for six minority religious groups from the neighboring countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Indian President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the bill late on Thursday, signing it into law, an official statement said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has planned to host Abe at a meeting in Assam next week as part of a campaign to move high-profile diplomatic events outside Delhi to showcase India’s diversity.
Japan’s Jiji Press reported on Friday that Abe is considering canceling his trip. India’s foreign ministry said it was not in a position to comment on the visit which was originally planned for Dec 15-17.
A movement against immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh has raged in Assam for decades. Protesters say granting Indian nationality to more people will further strain the resources of the tea growing state and lead to the marginalization of indigenous communities.
Japan has stepped up infrastructure development work in Assam in recent years which the two sides were expected to highlight during the summit. Abe had also planned to visit a memorial in the nearby state of Manipur where Japanese soldiers were killed during World War Two.
Critics of Modi’s Hindu nationalist government say the bigger problem with the new law is that it is the first time India is using religion as a criterion for granting citizenship and that it excludes Muslims from its ambit.
The law seeks to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled the three Muslim-majority neighboring countries before 2015.
The Indian Union Muslim League party has petitioned the Supreme Court saying the law was in conflict with the secular principles of India’s constitution that guaranteed equality to all without any regard to religion. No date has yet been set for the hearings.
The party said the law is “prima facie communal” and questioned the exclusion of minorities such as Rohingya Muslims who were just as persecuted as other faiths listed in the law.