THE DEATH toll from Sunday’s magnitude 6.9 earthquake in southern Mindanao has reached eight, and response teams have shifted from rescue operations to retrieval efforts with no more sign of life detected at the collapsed building in Padada town, the tremor’s epicenter. Franz N. Irag, designated information officer of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD)–Davao Region, told BusinessWorld the third casualty pulled out of the collapsed building on Monday has been confirmed to be the woman who sent a mobile text message on Sunday saying she and several others are trapped. Of the seven, three are from the building, and one each in the towns of Matanao, Hagonoy, Bansalan and Magsaysay in Davao del Sur province, and Malita, Davao Occidental.

The casualties include a six-year old girl and a 10-year old boy.

Senior Supt. Fred L. Trajeras Jr., Bureau of Fire Protection-Davao regional director and one of the leaders of the rescue operations, said responders have started shifting to retrieval operations in the collapsed commercial building as their equipment have not monitored any sign of life. Philippine Coast Guard K9 Unit teams have also been deployed for “life search and detection” operations. In a press conference, Mr. Trajeras said there have also been no reports of persons missing. All employees of the commercial establishment have been accounted for. The retrieval activities, he said, will take time in consideration of the rescuers’ safety. “We have to protect the safety and welfare of our responders,” he said. As of Monday, 556 aftershocks have been recorded by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology. — Carmelito Q. Francisco