Magnitude 6.6 earthquake strikes Cotabato

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (10th UPDATE) –  A magnitude 6.6 earthquake hit Cotabato on Tuesday, October 29, killing at least 6 and injuring around 50 people, and causing damage to infrastructure in various areas in Mindanao.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said in a bulletin that the tremor, which was tectonic in origin at a depth of 7 kilometers, struck Tulunan, Cotabato at 9:04 am on Tuesday.  (WATCH: Rappler Talk: Earthquakes and hazards in the Philippines)

The earthquake was felt in the following areas:

Instrumental Intensities:

Phivolcs initially reported a magnitude 6.4 earthquake in its 9:04 am bulletin, but changed this to magnitude 6.6 in its 9:44 am bulletin.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) initially reported a magnitude 6.8 earthquake, but also changed this to magnitude 6.6 in a later bulletin.

The shaking lasted up to a minute in some areas, damaging homes, multi-story buildings and classrooms in a region where hundreds remained displaced by a quake that killed at least 6 earlier this month.

Panic

The earthquake struck  nearly two weeks after a magnitude 6.3 earthquake hit the same area and affected other parts of Mindanao. The October 16 earthquake left 6 dead and nearly a hundred people hurt.

Rescue teams have begun fanning out to assess the damage to the region, where electricity and phone services were knocked out by the power of the quake.

As of noontime, the Davao del Sur provincial disaster risk reduction and management office (PDRRMO) said at least 30 people were rushed to various hospitals in the province either due to injuries or because of fainting.

There were also injuries reported in Tulunan town in Cotabato, the epicenter of the tremor, but these were still being validated, according to Mayor Reuel Limbungan. 

"Our municipal hall has been destroyed.... We are receiving lots of reports of injuries, but we have to confirm them," Limbungan told Agence France-Presse.

In Malita, Davao Occidental, several individuals, including some employees at the town and provincial governments, were injured following the earthquake. The victims stumbled as they rushed out of buildings, according to the provincial disaster risk reduction management office (PDRRMO).

At the Mariano Peralta National High School in downtown Malita, students also rushed out of their classrooms but no one had been reported hurt so far.

SAFETY FIRST. Students rush out of the Don Mariano Peralta High School in Malita, Davao Occidental. Photo by Allan Nawal/Rappler

SAFETY FIRST. Students rush out of the Don Mariano Peralta High School in Malita, Davao Occidental.

Photo by Allan Nawal/Rappler

Patients at the nearby one-story Malita District Hospital were also evacuated.

Damage

In Digos City, the roof of a building of the Catholic-run Cor Jesu College, which suffered damages from the October 16 quake, had nearly collapsed, officials said.

"We are still assessing other damages," said Digos City Mayor Josef Cagas.

In Magsaysay town, Davao del Sur, which is near the epicenter of the quake, the municipal hall suffered more damage but officials were yet to decide to declare it unfit for use, said Anthony Allada, the municipal information officer. 

A portion of the gymnasium of the Mabini Barangay gymnasium also collapsed while the walls and ceiling of its barangay hall had cracked. 

Following a building inspection ordered by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, the Davao City information office reported that 54 areas in the city were affected by the earthquake, mosly sustaining minors cracks on the walls.

Two establishments sustained major cracks and damage, Gaisano Grand in Barangay Toril and  Ecoland 4000 Condominium, while the structures with major cracks are Felcris Centrale, Catalunan Grande Elementary School, and Catalunan Grande High School. 

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said CAAP-operated airports in areas affected by the earthquake did not report any damage.

Work, classes suspended

Phivolcs chief Renato Solidum urged people in affected areas to stay outside of homes and buildings, for the meantime, as aftershocks were expected.

"People should stay outside for now," Solidum.

Aftershocks were recorded following the earthquake, including a strong magnitude 6.1 aftershock in Tulunan town at 10:42 am.

Classes and work in government offices in several areas were suspended following the tremor.

In Davao Occidental, Governor Claude Bautista suspended classes in all levels and work in some government offices that are not directly involved in disaster response.

In Davao del Norte, Governor Edwin Jubahib suspended classes in all levels. Tagum City Mayor Allan Rellon followed suit as he ordered the City Engineering Office to conduct inspections in all school buildings in the city.

Classes were also suspended in Compostela Valley, according to Governor Tyron Uy.

In Davao City, Mayor Duterte suspended classes in all levels in public and private schools and work at city hall.

In Malacañang, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the Office of Civil Defense are closely monitoring the situation in Mindanao.

"All responsible government agencies and local government units are currently undertaking rapid damage assessment and needs analysis of affected areas and communities in order to properly assess the situation and coordinate rescue and relief operations," Panelo said in a statement. 

"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 govenerment channels," he added.

The Philippines is part of the Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin. 

One of the deadliest quakes to hit the Philippines recently was in April, provoking the collapse of a building in Pampanga thet killed at least 16 people. –  With reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com