PADADA, Davao del Sur (MindaNews / 16 December) — Search, rescue and retrieval operations continued Monday in the three-floor South Green Marketing (old name: Southern Trade) shopping center that collapsed when a magnitude 6.9 earthquake rocked parts of Mindanao Sunday afternoon.
Authorities have no estimate on the number of persons who remain trapped inside the building but at least three persons have been confirmed killed and at least six persons were awaiting rescue in one part of the collapsed building, as relayed through a text message to a co-worker at 4:16 a.m. on Monday.
Only two bodies had been retrieved while retrieval teams on Monday morning were working to get the third body out.
Bureau of Fire Protection regional director Fred Trajeras identified the two slain victims as Elsa Ababon, 57 and Vangie Artiaga, 67.
Trajeras said a worker of South Green named Emily Gollegos, one of those trapped in the building, sent a text message to co-worker Juvelyn Cabatbat informing her there were six of them awaiting rescue in an area which Trajeras said was estimated, with the aid of equipment, to be on the left side of the building, around two meters from an opening.
Engr. Luke Cadayos, Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer, said the South Green Rescuers from Davao City’s Central 911, Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Southern Mindanao, BFP-BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) and BFP-Caraga, are aided by life and motion detector and life detector equipment.
The life and motion detector of the BFP, he said, can monitor heartbeat while the life detector of Davao City’s Central 911, can monitor pulse.
But as the press briefing on the road outside the Padada police station was ending, Trajeras said rescue teams had reached six meters but could not find the six persons.
Signs of life
South Green Marketing is a three-floor building constructed 29 years ago, Cadayos said, on a 540-square meter lot. It is located along Rizal Street some 600 meters from the national highway, on the same road leading to the police station, municipal hall and fire station. The third floor is the residence of the owners.
Cadayos said South Green survived after the series of above-Magnitude 6 quakes between October 16 and 31 but the epicenter of the previous quakes, he said, was quite far from the town.
He added that the quake triggered liquefaction in the area that triggered the collapse of the building.
Cadayos told MindaNews on Monday afternoon that the third body had not been retrieved because “may nakitang possible life sa loob kaya less priority po muna ang dead. Ang focus ay nasa maaring buhay pa” (there were signs of life inside so the focus was on those who are still possibly alive).
Police Lieutenant Leah Orduba, Public Information Officer and Incident Command spokesperson, told MindaNews that South Green has 26 employees and 25 had been accounted.
The 26th is Gollegos, who Trajeras said, had informed Cabatbat that
At the old reservoir where demolition was ongoing, Cocoy Dabi, owner of the house beside the reservoir that was crushed by the debris when it collapsed, said 10 workers were rushed to the hospitals.
He said the workers had been staying in the area for some three weeks now to demolish the old concrete reservoir and, according to Dabi, were not supposed to work on Sunday, their rest day, but did so due to deadline pressures.
He said the workers wore safety harnesses attached to an estimated 90-feet high scaffolding when the quake struck and demolished the reservoir and the scaffolding. Dabi said two workers who managed to unlock their safety harnesses jumped, landing with blood on their head. The rest suffered injuries as well
Dabi said four of the workers died in the hospital but Cadayos denied this. “Not true,” he told MindaNews Monday afternoon.
Totally and partially damaged
Orbuda showed MindaNews a list of buildings in Padada that had been classified as totally damaged and partially damaged.
Among those classified as totally damaged are the municipal police station itself and the fire station.
The police station has not been used since the magnitude 6.5 quake on October 31. Previous to that, a magnitude 6.3 quake also affected the area on October 16 and magnitudes 6.6 and 6.1 on October 29.
Sunday’s earthquake, which jolted parts of Mindanao at 2:11 p.m., was the most powerful in two months.
A few meters away from the municipal police station, firemen are huddled in a makeshift office as their building, costing 2.9 million pesos and inaugurated last year, has been rendered unsafe.
SFO1 Hersam Sanchez, told MindaNews the two-floor building suffered some minor cracks on October 16 but they were still able to work there. In the October 29 quakes (6.6 and 6.1), they were advised that the building needed retrofitting but after the October 31 magnitude 6.5 quake, “Do not enter” signs were put up.
Other buildings classified totally damaged are: South Green, Canlas Store, Carpintero Building, old water reservoir, public market, and Uling Roaster.
Among those classified partially damaged, according to the Incident Command Post’s list are Shell Fuel Station, South Davao Hospital, Southern College, 7-11, St. Michael’s School of Padada, St. Michael’s Church, Asilo Hospital, Sangguniang Bayan, Municipal Social Welfare and Development, daycare center. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews