At least 6 dead as magnitude 6.6 earthquake rocks Mindanao

MANILA, Philippines (5th UPDATE) – At least 6 people were killed after a magnitude 6.6 earthquake rocked Cotabato and other parts of Mindanao on Tuesday, October 29.

Authorities confirmed 6 deaths, so far, and 50 people hurt by falling debris, including some 7 pupils and teachers hurt escaping their collapsed elementary school. 

Anthony Allada, media information officer of Magsaysay town, Davao del Sur, confirmed that 15-year-old Grade 9 student Jessie Riel Parba of Kasuga National High School was killed after being hit by falling debris.

Magsaysay town is near Tulunan, Cotabato, the epicenter of the earthquake. 

The Philippine Army's 4th Infantry Division said in a statement that a man was killed by falling debris from a school building that was undergoing renovation in Barangay General Paulino Santos in Koronadal City, South Cotabato.

Rock and landslides unleashed by the violent shaking killed 4 others, two of them in Arakan, Cotabato.

Abner Francisco, a Kidapawan City broadcaster and resident of Barangay Lanao Kuran in Arakan, said he was in the area and had reported those killed as Angel Andi and his 7-year-old son, Rene Boy, who were killed by a boulder that hit their home during the earthquake. A two-year-old boy was also reportedly hurt in the incident.

In Tulunan, at least half a dozen people were injured by falling debris, according to a report reaching the Cotabato disaster risk and management office.

"Buildings were not just moving, they were swaying," Gadi Sorilla, a doctor at a hospital in Tulunan, told Agence France-Presse.

"I asked God for help," he said, adding the hospital had quickly received about 10 patients, some with head injuries.

Reports of damage in the aftermath of the quake, particularly in Tulunan and Mlang in Cotabato, had been trickling in because of weak mobile signal after the facilities of Smart telecom caught fire due to the quake.

In Davao del Norte, no fatalities, major injuries, or critical damage to infrastructures were reported as of Tuesday evening.

Still, the local damage assessment team recommended the closure of two classrooms in Dujali National High School and one classroom in Antonio V. Fruto, Sr. National High School after "several critical gaping cracks" were observed.

Several private establishments, meanwhile, announced temporary shutdown to facilitate "thorough property inspection."

Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) chief Renato Solidum had earlier urged people in affected areas to stay outside of homes and buildings, for the meantime, as aftershocks were expected. 

The earthquake comes two weeks after a magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck the same area, Tulunan, and affected other parts of Mindanao, leaving at least 6 dead and nearly a hundred injured.

Japanese Ambassador Koji Haneda offered his condolences to the families of the victims and expressed his sympathies to all those affected. "As an earthquake-prone country, Japan fully understands the hardship caused by such natural disasters. We stand in solidarity with the Government and the people of the Philippines," the embassy said in a statement on Wednesday, October 30. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com