A retired 66-year-old government employee was among at least seven people killed while more than 200 were injured when a 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck the southern Philippines Tuesday, according to the national Office of Civil Defense.
Police Staff Sgt. Archie Estrella of the Koronadal police station said Nestor Narciso, a retired government worker, was helping construct a village church when the temblor occurred at midmorning.
“We confirmed that Narciso was pinned to death after a concrete wall fell on him,” Estrella said.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology reported the 9:04 a.m. quake was centered 26 km (16 miles) northeast of Tulunan, North Cotabato province, about 1,617 km (1,010 miles) south of Manila.
Meanwhile, several students at the Tulunan elementary school were injured and rushed to regional hospitals, according to a teacher who spoke to BenarNews.
Chyna Nicole Via, 24, a primary teacher at the school, said she was in class when the ground shook violently.
“We couldn’t even stand, that’s how strong it was,” she said. “I crawled to get to the students who were still inside the classroom.
“There were more or less 15 students and teachers who were hurt,” she said. “We were with one pregnant woman who was also wounded.”
She posted pictures on Facebook including one showing a young girl whose face was bloodied by falling debris.
Her students were seen crying after they were taken open ground away from the school where a roof had collapsed on classrooms.
“We desperately need help now,” she said appealing for tents, generators and medicine for the children. “We still have water to drink, but the power is still out.”
In nearby Davao City, Mayor Sara Duterte said the quake may have caused structural and electrical damage to buildings and houses. Davao City is about 85 km (52 miles) from Tulunan.
Classes in all schools in Davao and Cagayan de Oro cities were cancelled while officials and owners checked buildings for damage.
Duterte urged all school owners, teachers and other school personnel to have school structures undergo safety inspections by qualified engineers immediately.
“If they find building defects that are dangerous and need repair, they should immediately condemn the area and not allow students to use them,” she said in a statement.
The office of civil defense reported 10 schools and more than 1,200 homes were destroyed by the quake while more than 500 schools and 5,000 homes sustained damage.
Pacific Ring of Fire
The quake occurred less than two weeks after one of 6.3 magnitude struck on Oct. 16 in the nearby town of Makilala. That quake killed seven.
The Philippines sits in the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, an area where quakes are common. In April, quakes with magnitudes of 6.4 and 6.1 struck the northern and central Philippines a day apart, killing at least 16.
In Manila, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said all relevant government agencies have been ordered to undertake “rapid assessment and needs analysis of affected areas.”
“We ask our citizens to remain calm but vigilant and we urge them to refrain from spreading disinformation that may cause undue alarm, panic or stress,” he said.
In Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported it was monitoring developments, adding there were no reports of Malaysians affected by the earthquake. It said Malaysians in the region who need assistance should contact the Consulate General in Davao City.
“Malaysia stands in solidarity with the Philippines during this challenging time,” the ministry said in a news release.
Dennis Jay Santos in Davao City, Philippines, contributed to this report.