SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/16 March) – Dozens of mall goers got injured when a strong quake caused a stampede at Gaisano Capital here at around 4pm this afternoon.
“People were running for safety and got trapped near the main exit and entrance of the mall,” Cecile Penasco, duty guard of Gaisano Capital Surigao, said, adding two glass doors at the mall were broken.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the tremor registered a magnitude of 5.9 and was felt as far as Southern Leyte and Eastern Samar in the Visayas.
The NDCC said it was a local quake of tectonic origin and was located two kilometers south of Dinagat Island.
“Daghan nangasamad sa bildo, nangaipit,” (Many got wounded by the broken glass, others were trapped,” Penasco said.
He said at least 60 people were injured.
An estimated 7,000-10,000 people went this afternoon to the mall, which opened its second floor today with attractions like the presence of celebrities Dino Imperial, Isabel Oli and Dianne Medina.
Some children got separated from their parents in the ensuing chaos. The City Crisis Center reported that a 2-year-old girl went missing in Navarro Street.
Dr. Panfilo Trimedal of Caraga Regional Hospital said they were still counting the number of injured persons. He said at least 20 persons were hospitalized.
Trimedal and the hospital staff were treating some victims while waiting for ambulances to arrive.
Nards Go of the Quick Response Action Team said the injured victims only had minor injuries.
Norgielyn Escol, 30, sustained bruises, contusions, and slashed arms, fists and elbow. She said she and her friends dashed to the door as the bulbs began falling.
Mall manager Valeriano Sun said one of their workers was seriously hurt but refused to give a comment on whether the mall will shoulder the hospitalization of the people who were hurt in the stampede.
The entire city experienced a power blackout for 30 minutes shortly after the quake.
City Mayor Ernesto T. Matugas said he ran outside the city hall to get to a safer area. He said the strong earth movement made him panic.
“But I’m thankful to God because I’m safe,” Matugas told MindaNews.
The mayor went to the mall to assess the situation in the area. He said the city will assist the injured victims.
He said he has instructed the head of the City Engineering Office to immediately conduct an inspection tomorrow “to immediately check and correct” damage to public and commercial buildings.
He also planned to call a meeting with traders and owners of establishments in the city for a discussion on handling emergencies.
City police chief Supt. Jonathan Trogello meanwhile said the presence of 15 new police personnel helped in avoiding further chaos.
Some residents panicked too and ran outside their houses.
Serafin Silva, a resident of Km. 2 Payawan 1, Barangay Luna said his jars and figurines were shattered into pieces. He said those items had sentimental value because those had been with him for years.
A number of people, including two teachers and two students, were hurt when cables broke and at the Surigao del Norte Gymnasium.
Meanwhile, Surigao del Norte Gov. Sol F. Matugas has instructed her municipal disaster risk management officials particularly in Siargao Island to be on alert for an aftershock or a tsunami.
She also urged the people to pray and be calm and to not go to the mall today as aftershocks may yet happen.
Siargao Island is facing the Pacific Ocean. It lies near Dinagat island where the epicenter of the quake was recorded.
The governor was supposed to attend the investiture of the new president of the Surigao State College of Technology, Gloria Gemparo. The ceremony was scheduled at 4 p.m., the same time the quake occurred.
Aside from Dinagat, Surigao City and Surigao Norte, the tremor also hit Surigao del Sur, Butuan City, parts of Leyte and Samar, Cebu City and Camiguin, according to the NDCC.
Residents of Malaybalay City said they also felt the ground shake mildly at around 4pm today. (Roel Catoto and Vanessa Almeda, with a report from H. Marcos C. Mordeno/MindaNews)