A powerful earthquake struck Mindanao again on Thursday, killing at least five people and sparking searches of damaged buildings that had already been rattled by two previous deadly tremors in recent weeks.
The 6.5-magnitude quake hit the island of Mindanao, the US Geological Survey said, causing locals to run to safety in the same area where a strong tremor killed eight people on Tuesday.
The powerful shaking caused serious damage to a condominium building in Davao City, which was about 45 kilometers from the epicenter.
At least nine people were hurt in the building, and rescuers had launched a search to determine if residents might be trapped inside, police said.
Four people were killed in nearby Cotabato province by the quake, including a local official who was crushed to death, a police official said.
Cesar Bangot, a village official of Barangay Batasan, Makilala town, and four still unidentified victims were crushed by falling debris.
The quake caused the Eva Hotel in Kidapawan City to collapse, but its occupants had already evacuated the building.
Hundreds of occupants of the Ecoland 4000 condominium were slightly injured when hit by debris from the damaged building.
North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Talino Mendoza reported new landslides in the upland village of Sitio Kabayan in Kidapawan City, where an undetermined number of residents were trapped.
READ: Kidapawan under state of calamity
Several houses and buildings that had been damaged by the earlier quakes collapsed; others were dislodged by landslides.
“We’ve been busy deploying…we have many volunteers from the Philippine Army, Bureau of Fire and the Philippine National Police because of the quake that just hit awhile ago….there seems to be no end to this,” Mendoza said.
She said several portions of the national highway connecting Davao region and Cotabato province has broken apart in large chunks.
Trucks and other heavy equipment-carrying vehicles plying the damaged road were prevented from entering Kidapawan.
Makilala town Mayor Amando Quibod declared all structures damaged and unfit for occupancy as he appealed for food, potable water and tents, and blankets for quake victims.
Locals have been left terrified by a string of powerful quakes, and hundreds of aftershocks since the first powerful tremor struck on Oct. 16.
“I panicked and I rushed outside. I was afraid the building might collapse,” said Beth Lancian, a restaurant cashier in Davao. “There’s been an earthquake almost every week.”
President Rodrigo Duterte was in his hometown of Davao when the shaking began, but his spokesman said he was unharmed.
Some 12,000 people were already in shelters on Mindanao island before Thursday’s quake hit, the government said, either because their homes have been destroyed or they were too afraid to return to their residences.
In the 6.6-magnitude quake on Tuesday, a teenage boy was crushed by a falling wall as he tried to escape his school in Magsaysay, the town spokesman said.
Rock and landslides unleashed by the violent shaking killed four others, while a collapsed wall crushed a man, authorities said.
READ: Quake casualties mounting
Nearly 400 people were hurt, including some seven pupils and teachers hurt escaping their collapsed elementary school.
The area was still suffering the effects of a 6.4-magnitude quake that hit less than two weeks ago, killing at least five people and damaging dozens of buildings.
Residents fled homes across the Mindanao region and a mall caught fire in the city of General Santos shortly after the quake struck on Oct. 16.
Hundreds of people were still displaced two weeks after that quake when the second one struck earlier this week, forcing thousands more from their homes.
One of the deadliest quakes to hit the Philippines recently was in April when 16 people were killed as a building near Manila collapsed and the secondary Clark airport was shut down after damage to the passenger terminal.
High-rise structures in the capital swayed after the April quake, leaving some with large cracks in their walls.
All military units in Eastern Mindanao were directed to assist victims of earthquakes in Southern Mindanao.
PNP Officer-in-Charge Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa said they are giving utmost priority to mobilizing their respective units, personnel and available resources to respond to calls for help from quake victims.
According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, the spate of quakes that occurred on July 9, and Oct. 16, 29 and 31 could have been triggered by one fault—the Malungon fault line.
The movement of the fault could generate a magnitude 7.2 earthquake.
President Duterte was in his hometown when the quake struck, leaving cracks on the walls and ceiling of his house, the Palace said.
Presidential Security Group Commander Jose Eriel Niembra said engineers would inspect the house to assure the safety of the President and his family.
Meanwhile, the President ordered government agencies to extend “immediate relief” to residents of areas affected by the earthquake.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III has also dispatched labor officials and quick response teams to areas in Mindanao hardly hit by the 6.5-magnitude earthquake to assess the extent of destruction in workplaces and possible displacement of workers in the affected areas.
According to reports, Cotabato, Kidapawan City, and neighboring areas were severely damaged by the 6.5-magnitude earthquake.
Bello said they have yet to receive reports on job displacements of the workers in the affected areas adding, this will be one of the priority tasks of the response teams while profiling of the workers will follow.
The Department of Energy on Thursday activated a task force after reporting that geothermal plants in Kidapawan City near the foot of Mt. Apo, with a combined output of 94 megawatts, tripped due to high equipment vibration.
“The power transmission backbone in Mindanao remains intact,” the agency said in its advisory.
However, it said National Grid Corporation of the Philippines’ Kidapawan substation suffered damage due to the earthquake.
READ: 6.3-quake jolts North Cotabato
READ: Quake forces 1.9-million students to skip classes