Davao quake toll climbs to 7 as hopes fade for survivors

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 17 2019 08:35 AM | Updated as of Dec 17 2019 12:24 PM

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MANILA — The death toll from a powerful quake that hit Mindanao last weekend has hit 7, authorities said Tuesday, as rescuers with sniffer dogs and heartbeat detectors sifted through rubble for the second day to find survivors. 

Sunday's magnitude 6.9 quake struck south of President Rodrigo Duterte's hometown Davao City, cracking thousands of structures across the region which withstood a previous series of quakes. 

In the trading town of Padada, Davao Del Sur, rescuers have pulled 3 bodies from a collapsed grocery store where 2 other fatalities are still trapped, said disaster officer Christopher Tan. 

Rains and strong aftershocks temporarily suspended retrieval operations until 8 a.m. (Tuesday), he said. 

"Based sa mga device na ginagamit, wala na kaming makitang heartbeat sa loob," he told radio DZMM. 

(Based on the devices we use, we can no longer find any heartbeat inside.) 

Around 50 buildings in Padada which were built in the 1970s and 80s can no longer be used due to the quake, he added. 

Meanwhile, neighboring Matanao town recorded 2 fatalities, the latest of which was an 81-year-old woman who succumbed to heart attack during the quakes, said Mayor Vincent Fernandez. 

The town's other fatality was a 6-year-old girl who was crushed by her collapsed family home, he said. 

The quake displaced 8,000 families in Matanao, of whom 3,000 have either partially damaged or totally destroyed homes, said the mayor. 

Some 13,000 relief packs that will be distributed to the quake survivors on Tuesday might only get them through a week, said Fernandez as he appealed for donations of food, tents, and water. 

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council is verifying reports of 7 fatalities and 49 injured, its spokesperson Mark Timbal said in a text message to ABS-CBN News. 

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Four other tremors with magnitudes above 6 had hit the region since October, killing some 2 dozen, said the state seismology office Phivolcs. 

Sunday's quake sent some 9,565 people to evacuation centers and damaged 36 public structures according to an NDRRMC report. The Department of Education, in a separate DZMM interview, said the tremor destroyed 31 schools and affected 370,000 learners.

The quake has spawned some 700 aftershocks, the strongest of which is 5.2, Phivolcs chief Renato Solidum said. 

He urged the public to stay away from damaged buildings as the aftershocks can continue in the next several days. 

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

Searchers were fanning out across the quake-hit areas of Mindanao on to fully assess the damage, but have already reported several schools and hospitals were cracked.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who is from Davao and was there during the quake, was not hurt.

"The first lady... said the car she was riding (in) was swaying," Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said. 

— With a report from Agence France-Presse