Another powerful earthquake struck the southern Philippines on Thursday, killing at least five people and damaging buildings in a region already clobbered by two strong temblors this month, officials said.
Cotabato province, about 1,617 km (1,010 miles) south of Manila, was among the worst affected by the 6.6-magnitude quake that ripped through the island of Mindanao, the same region where a temblor killed at least eight people and injured 395 others on Tuesday, disaster officials said.
Nine people were hurt and five others were missing when two floors of a residential condominium in the southern city of Davao collapsed Thursday. In nearby Cotabato, five people were killed, including a 7-year-old boy who was hit by falling debris and two people who were buried by a landslide, police said.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) traced the temblor’s epicenter near the town of Tulunan in Cotabato.
Soldiers and rescuers were scouring the Ecoland 4000 condominium in Davao city three hours after the incident, and were able to pull out nine injured residents, Lt. Col. Consolito Yecla, commander of the military's Task Force Davao, told reporters.
“Our soldiers and rescuers are inspecting the lower floors right now looking for the missing,” he said. “It is a slow progress.”
He said the ground level and the second floor of the building had collapsed after the quake hit shortly after 9 a.m., pinning an undetermined number of people.
Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte said structural engineers had told the condominium owners as early as Tuesday “to abandon the building because it won’t survive another strong earthquake.”
“Residents who had places to go to already left, but according to the building administrator ... some renters refused [to leave],” she said.
Phivolcs said the tremor was felt in Kidapawan and Davao cities at intensity seven.
In Kidapawan, Col. Rey Alvarado, commanding officer of the Army’s 72nd Infantry Battalion, said the entire facade of Eva Hotel collapsed, but no one was injured.
“Luckily the hotel stopped accepting guests two days ago after city building officials found some cracks,” Alvarado said. But he said rescuers had to rescue and evacuate patients at a nearby eight-story hospital.
When the temblor struck Thursday, almost 13,000 people from around 60 villages were already in evacuation sites.
President Rodrigo Duterte was in Davao when the disaster struck, according to Sen. Bong Go, his former aide.
“The president is safe and there is no need to evacuate him,” Go said.
The two latest quakes occurred less than two weeks after one of 6.3 magnitude struck on Oct. 16 in the nearby town of Makilala, killing seven people.
The Philippines sits in the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, an area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean known for seismic upheavals and volcanic eruptions. In April, quakes with magnitudes of 6.4 and 6.1 struck the northern and central Philippines a day apart, killing at least 16.