Quake aftermath in Daig Elementary School: “wala na, back to zero”

DAIG, Tulunan, North Cotabato (MindaNews / 29 Oct) — Around 200 students of the Daig Elementary School were taking their periodic exams when the ground suddenly shook at 9:04 a.m. on Tuesday, sending all of them rushing outside as classrooms swayed so hard, ceilings started to fall and a three-classroom building eventually collapsed.

For many, there was no time to “duck, cover and hold” as previous earthquake drills had instructed. The key to survival was to leave the classrooms.

“Kusog gyud kaayo dili mi makatindog. Naghapa na lang mi” (It was shaking vigorously we could not stand at all. We just dropped to the ground), teachers narrated to Acting North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Talino-Mendoza and geologist Jeffrey Perez of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) who informed them that based on their accounts, it was likely Intensity 8 that they felt.

A man walks past the damaged building of Daig Elementary School in Barangay Daig, Tulunan town, North Cotabato following the mag 6.6 quake on October 29, 2019. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

“It’s more than intensity 7,” Perez said, explaining that based on the description of the teachers and village officials, “halos hindi na sila makatayo” (they could hardly stand).

“May mga teachers, mga estudyante na ang description nila, dumapa na sila. So pag ganon ying description, ibig sabihin malakas talaga yung lindol” (There were teachers and students who said they dropped to the ground. If the description is like that, it means the quake was very strong), he told reporters.

Perez explained that they need to study if this latest quake is to be considered as a series of earthquakes that started on July 9 followed by October 16 and 29.

Phivolcs geologist Jeffrey Perez listens to teachers at the Daig Elementary School in Tulunan, North Cotabato narrate what happened when the Magnitude 6.6 quake struck at 9:04 a.m. on Tuesday, 29 October 2019, 13 days after a Magnitude 6.3 quake also hit the town. To the left of Perez is Joy Via, the school principal.  MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

“Kailangan nating pag-aralan, kailangan tingan bakit ganito ang movement ng fault; Imagine-in natin, what if October 16 at yung kanina ay nangyari ng isang beses. Anong magiging effect noon?” (We need to study, to see the movement of the fault. Imagine, what if what happened on October 16 and this morning happened one time? What would have been the effect?)

Asked if this could still be considered an aftershock to the October 16 quake when aftershocks are supposed to be smaller in magnitude, Perez told MindaNews: “We don’t remove the possibility of a larger earthquake so kapag may mga ganong sequence, pwdeng yung malakas yun yung magiging main shock and then the previous are foreshocks yung tinatawag, but we can’t also deny na ito bang earthquake na ito ay ibang earthquake, so ibang source ng ano… so kailangan nating pag-aralan.”

Diaster Summit

Perez headed the Quick Response Team of the Phivolcs central office in Manila that was here from October 18 to 24 to assess the damages wrought by the October 16 Magnitude 6.3 quake. He returned to Kidapawan City to speak Tuesday morning at the Disaster Summit convened by the provincial government.

Acting Governor Emmylou Talino –Mendoza talks to teachers of Daig Elementary School in Tulunan, North Cotabato mid-afternoon of 29 October 2019, following the Magnitude 6.6 quake that hit the area. Daig is “closer to the epicenter,” according to Phivolcs geologist Jeffrey Perez. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Mendoza said she wanted the barangay chairs and other officials in the province to listen to the report of the Phivolcs so they would know what to do in case another big quake strikes.

The Summit was just starting when the Magnitude 6.6 quake struck at 9:04 a.m., its epicenter located 25 kms southeast of Tulunan.

A crowd of teachers, village officials and residents gathered around the Governor and Perez at the school grounds here mid-afternoon Tuesday, some six hours after the quake struck. A strong aftershock at around 3:04 pm. made everyone pause from what they were doing.

School principal Joy Via told MindaNews that 16 of their students were injured, two of them sent to hospitals. Barangay Daig in Tulunan, North Cotabato is quite far from the town hall in Tulunan and is more accessible via Magsaysay in Davao del Sur, another town suffering from two major quakes 13 days apart.

MindaNews chanced upon Mendoza’s convoy as it was moving towards Magsaysay en route to Barangay Daig.

“Totally, wala na ”

The school has four one-storey buildings housing nine classrooms. One of the four buildings housed three classrooms but after the October 16 quake, two of the classrooms were vacated, the principal explained.

The entire building collapsed on Tuesday.

“Totally wala na,” said Via as she noted seven of the nine classrooms in the four buildings “totally collapsed” even as from the outside, two buildings appear to be still standing. The two other classrooms, she said, cannot also be used as they are unsafe.

Quake aftermath in one of the classrooms at Daig Elementary SChool in Tulunan, North Cotabato on 29 October 2019. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Via was not in the school when the quake struck as she was going to get additional ‘trapal’ (tarpaulin) for the students displaced from the three-classroom building that eventually collapsed on Tuesday.

She told MindaNews she feared returning home to find dead students. “May patay gyud ko kay klase, exam” (I’d have dead students because they have exams), said Via. It was the second day of school after their sem break.

Grade 2 teacher Sheena Via, recalled they had 62 students in one room — as the Grade 1 and 2 students shared a room pending the arrival of the tarpaulin – when they were jolted by the “kusog kaayo” (very strong) quake.

The school has a population of 197 students and eight teachers, one of them pregnant.

Mendoza said that if the school is within five meters to the left and five meters to the right of the faultline “you have to relocate” as the school will fall under “zone of avoidance.”

While visiting Barangay Magkob where a school was earlier ordered to be relocated, Perez told Mendoza that he cannot confirm if the fault is in Daig but it is definitely closer to the epicenter. “Di ko rin maco-confirm kung nandon yung fault pero ang alam po natin yung malakas na groundshaking andon so ibig sabihin, closer sila sa epicenter” (I cannot confirm if the fault is there but what we know is that the groundshaking there was very strong so it means it is closer to the epicenter).

“Wala na. Back to zero,” Via the principal added as she pointed to the damaged buildings, the used tires turned into flower pots uprooted, the stage that also collapsed.

The covered court of Barangay Daig in Tulunan, North Cotabato collapses following a magnitude 6.6 earthquake on Tuesday morning, 29 October 2019. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

She said she still has to ask the Schools Division chief on what they would do and where they would temporarily hold school as several structures and houses nearby have either collapsed or are unsafe. Even her house, she said, is “wala na” (gone).

The barangay’s covered court nearby could have been partitioned into makeshift classrooms. But it cannot be used as well as it had collapsed. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)