“When the ground shook, the mountain exploded”

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MALASILA, Makilala, North Cotabato (MindaNews / 1 November) – “Pag uyog sa lupa, ang bukid nibutobuto. Nibuto gyud ang yuta” (When the ground shook, the mountain exploded. The ground exploded).

Over 100 families evacuated to the Malasila National Vocational and Technology High School because of the landslides in the mountains. MindaNews photo by GG BUENO

This was how residents of Sitio Balawan described how the landslide triggered by the Magnitude 6.5 earthquake at 9:11 a.m. Thursday came crashing down, forcing them to run with only the clothes on their back and seek refuge at the open field of the Malasila National Technical and Vocational School along the national highway, some six kilometers away from their mountain village.

An estimated 100 families are now staying here while another 100 families are in a neighboring evacuation site.

Three of their neighbors are missing and are feared to have been buried by the slide, along with a still undetermined number of houses, carabaos and horses, village councilor Virgilia Tan told MindaNews.

Nanginahanglan mig tabang, mga bugas, tubig, tambal, pagkaon” (We need help, rice, water, medicines, food), Tan said late Thursday afternoon as residents were not able to bring anything.

Wala gyud sila’y nabitbit bisan isa sa mga sinina nila, bisan panty wala silay nabitbit kay nanagan na lang sila kay nangahugno na ang among bukid” (They were not able to bring anything, not even extra clothes or panty because everyone ran when the mountain collapsed), Tan said.

Ang bukid ningpatag na karon. Ang gikan sa ibabaw napadulong sa ubos” (The mountain has flattened. What was at the top has gone to the bottom), Tan said.

Residents are also appealing for “trapal” (tarpaulin), preferably the thicker ones that they can use to set up makeshift tents, as the thin ones—laminated sacks—cannot withstand heavy rains.

Heavy downpour that followed the quakes since Tuesday has worsened the situation, as more landslides are expected. It has also been a problem for the evacuees pitching tents in open fields and residents whose houses are still standing or are partially damaged but would rather spend the night in tents outside, the rains notwithstanding.

In Sitio Flortam, Barangay Batasan, at least 10 families huddled in a makeshift tent on the side of the national highway, as their houses were destroyed. But how safe are they from the quake and rains?

Cracked portion of the national highway in Barangay Batasan, Makilala. MindaNews photo by GG BUENO

The impact of the quake also caused a huge crack on the road as a concrete slab misaligned, rendering that portion impassable.

The chair of Barangay Batasan, Cesar Bangot, was killed inside his office when the beam of the barangay hall collapsed and fell on his back.

In Barangay Old Bulatukan, Makilala, a portion of the approach of the Dalapuay Bridge towards Bansalan, Davao del Sur also suffered a crack. “Nilupad ang semento” (the debris flew), residents said. Motorists have to wait on both sides as only one lane of the four-lane bridge is allowed for passage.

MindaNews saw Miriam Mendoza and family packing and loading their belongings into a tricycle as they were going to vacate their damaged house close to the bridge. “Makaya ra ang linog pero dili ang pirming kulba” (I can survive the quake but not the constant tension), Mendoza said.

In Barangay Sambulawan, Midsayap, North Cotabato, Zalika Piang, in her 90s, was alone in her house when the quake struck. She attempted to leave her bed and was outbalanced, causing her death, her relative Bai Fatima Kanakan told MindaNews.

Succession of 4 Magnitude 6 quakes

Thursday’s quake was the fourth Magnitude 6 in 15 days: M6.3 on October 16, M6.6 and M6.1 on October 29 and M6.5 on October 31.

In the October 29 quakes, landslides around their village isolated 386 households or around 2,000 individuals in Barangay Bato, Makilala. Residents appealed for food and water. Several attempts were made by the municipal government on how to bring help to the isolated village especially since it rained that night and the following afternoon. Makilala municipal administrator Sheryl Orbita said they finally found a route to get near them and deliver relief goods Wednesday night.

On Friday morning, Tan said more evacuees arrived in the technical school while others are now housed at the elementary school across the street.

Missing

The three missing persons in Sitio Balawan were identified as Rosalino Dayday, in his 50s, and teenage boys Rolando Ansero and Triumph Picao.

Dayday’s wife Juliana said a rubber tapper informed them that he saw her husband, also a tapper, running down with the landslide behind him.

The missing boys were also working in the rubber farm when the ground shook.

Tan laments that an estimated 200 families in six puroks can no longer return to their village.

Wala nay makabalik didto” (No one can return there). The villages, she said, is “totally damaged”

She explained that the landslide buried parts of their village and their water source, the Small Balawan River. “Pero siempre, sapa siya. Gikan siya sa ibabaw mupadulong gyud to siya sa ubos. Kung mapondo ang tubig, halimbawa mubuhagay to, asa man padulong? Sa among sitio. Mao na ang problema” (But the river that comes from up there, goes down. If the water is dammed, when it bursts, it will go down to our village. That’s the problem).

Where they will live when the earthquakes stop, Tan has no ready answers.

After Thursday’s quake, she went to the municipal hall compound to ask for food, water and “trapal.”

The town hall officials and employees are themselves evacuees.

Municipal administrator Orbita told MindaNews late Wednesday afternoon that they pitched tents as well as the town hall and the gymnasium have been declared unsafe. On Thursday morning, another major quake occurred, further compromising the buildings’ condition.

No to covered courts, classrooms

In Kidapawan City, the six-story Eva’s Hotel finally gave way after experiencing Intensity 7 for the fourth time Thursday morning. But its neighbor, the eight-story Kidapawan Doctors’ Hospital, still stood beside it.

The façade of Eva’s Hotel along Quezon Blvd. in the heart of Kidapawan City. MindaNews photo by JULES L. BENITEZ

Other buildings that had been previously declared unsafe in the past quakes also gave way on October 31.

In Davao City nine persons were injured when the five-story Ecoland 4000 Residences collapsed a day after the City Engineer’s Office gave notice that the building was unsafe for occupancy and was to be condemned.

Tan managed to get five sacks of rice, two for the families in the technical school compound, one in the neighboring evacuation site and two in San Isidro.

There is no water source in the school as the water system experienced some quake-related problems, she said.

There is a huge covered court nearby but no evacuee wants to stay there. Not even in the classrooms a few meters away.

Evacuees said they would rather stay in the open field than inside buildings or the covered court, afraid another quake will happen. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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