Tulunan: Preparedness in the epicenter of the earthquake

TULUNAN, North Cotabato (MindaNews / 29 October) – Thirty minutes after the 6.6 magnitude earthquake rocked this rural town, the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Center (MDRRMC) immediately established an incident command post in the municipal grounds even when the dust from the debris of nearby old municipal building barely settled. When the strong aftershock hit, the responders were unmindful and kept raising the makeshift tents.

Incident Command Post in Tulunan, North Cotabato, set up 30 minutes after the Magnitude 6.6 quake struck at 9:04 a.m. on Tuesday, 29 October 2019, serves as coordination point for rescue operations and immediate relief distribution. Photo by JULES L. BENITEZ

“Somehow, the earlier quake of October 16 drilled us on what we should be doing in case of a disaster,” Maureene Villamor, Vice Mayor of Tulunan, said. “Our team is ready to respond now,” said the Vice Mayor who was at the incident command post.

Materials for tents, water and food packs were distributed at the incident command post. Ambulance and responders were deployed for rescue.

Villamor said the municipality needs additional materials for temporary shelters and food packs. She estimated the number of severely affected to reach around 8,000 individuals in the entire municipality which has been identified as the epicenter of the earthquake.

The earthquake that hit the town 13 days earlier, damaged 1,231 houses. Of this number 388 units were totally destroyed.

“Now, we are expecting that those houses that were partially damaged during the previous earthquake will be most vulnerable, and most probably suffer heavy damage in this new quake,” said Jojo Ortiza, Municipal Councillor.

Old municipal building of Tulunan in North Cotabato has been declared unsafe for occupancy following the Magnitude 6.6 quake on 29 October 2019. Photo by JULES L. BENITEZ

The MDRRMC listed the barangays of Daig, Bacong and Magbok as the hardest hit as they were nearer the epicenter. As of two in the afternoon, 12 individuals from these barangays were reportedly injured, mostly children. The Day Care Center, Barangay Hall, and elementary school, all in barangay Daig were reportedly totally destroyed. The barangay is about 50 kilometers from the town center. In addition, the road leading to barangays Bacong and Bituan, and in Sitio Sambulawan were reportedly unpassable due to a landslide.

MDRRMC also reported 10 houses in barangay New Culasi and 27 houses in New Panay to have been totally damaged.

By three in the afternoon, the incident command post received its first casualty report. Marichele Moria, 23, pregnant, a resident of Barangay Banayal died in the local hospital. She was hit by a fallen tree at the height of the quake.

Volunteers from the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Center of neighboring Maguindanao province arrive in Tulunan, North Cotabato to help in the rescue operations in the aftermath of the 6.6 magnitude earthquake on 29 October 2019. Vice Mayor Maureen Villamor (lady in white shirt) briefs volunteers on the ground situation. Photo by JULES L. BENITEZ

At about the same time, volunteer responders and rescuers from the PDRRMC of the Province of Maguindanao arrived in Tulunan to help. (Jules L. Benitez / Special to MindaNews)