Quake aftermath in Region 12: at least 5,000 residents, 200 buildings affected

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 18 October) — The magnitude 6.3 earthquake that jolted a large part of Mindanao Wednesday night, and the succeeding aftershocks, affected at least 5,000 residents and over 200 houses, schools, hospitals and business establishments in Region 12 or Soccsksargen region, initial official assessments showed Friday.

The single biggest damage was incurred by the G-Mall of GenSan in General Santos City, which was engulfed by fire believed to have been triggered by the quake.

Fire rages at the Gaisano Mall in General Santos City following the magnitude 6.3 earthquake Wednesday evening that hit the south-central portion of Mindanao. It was felt as Intensity V in GenSan. Photo courtesy of EDWIN ESPEJO

Jorie Mae Balmediano, spokesperson of the Office of Civil Defense-12 (OCD-12) said the agency has started conducting ground validation to determine the extent of damages in the region.

But so far, OCD-12 has monitored 11 hospitals and 33 schools that suffered various levels of damage, she said.

The affected hospitals put out tents to continue their operations, Balmediano added.

Region 12 straddles the provinces of South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato which voted for inclusion in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in January.

One person from M’lang, North Cotabato died from heart attack after the quake that struck at 7:37 p.m. Wednesday, Balmediano said.

The quake’s epicenter was 22 kilometers southeast of Tulunan in North Cotabato.

Balmediano said classes in Tulunan town remained suspended as of Friday due to cracks seen in school facilities.

Classes remained suspended also in M’lang and Kidapawan City, both in North Cotabato, and Cotabato City, she added.

On Thursday, Balmediano said at least 39 local government units suspended classes in response to the powerful tremor, to allow engineers to check the integrity of school facilities.

Mayor Leonard Escobillo of Tampakan, South Cotabato also ordered suspension of classes again on Friday, as engineers have yet to complete assessing the structural integrity of all schools in the municipality, including those in the mountains.

Escobillo said the main four-story Tampakan National High School suffered damages.

In North Cotabato, Mercy Foronda, action officer of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said Friday that 200 houses in Makilala town were damaged by the tremor and succeeding aftershocks based on the monitoring they conducted as of 3:53 p.m. Thursday.

In a radio interview here, she said at least 5,000 individuals were affected by the quake in the province.

Foronda said they expect the figures to rise when the reports from other areas come in.

She cited problems in internet connection, which they use in communicating and gathering data.

In General Santos City, the fire at the G-Mall of GenSan was contained at 10:20 p.m. Thursday, after it reignited at past 7 p.m, Mayor Ronnel Rivera said.

The city’s Bureau of Fire Protection had earlier declared the fire contained at 1 p.m. Thursday, almost 18 hours after it broke out. The mall caught fire about an hour after the quake struck.

Balmediano said the firefighters managed to save about 30 percent of the newly-renovated mall, with local authorities placing the initial damage at 2 billion pesos. (Bong Sarmiento / MindaNews)