AUTHORITIES CONDUCTED infrastructure damage assessment while remaining on high alert Thursday after a magnitude 6.3 earthquake shook many parts of Mindanao at around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, with the epicenter in Tulunan, a town in Cotabato province located in the central part of the island. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), in its Oct. 17 situation report, confirmed two people died and at least 27 were injured from the tremor. Initial reports show damage in 29 infrastructure, including houses, schools, local government offices, and other public buildings. Among the biggest damage was at the Gaisano Mall in General Santos City, where a fire broke out minutes after the earthquake and firefighters were still battling the blaze as of Thursday morning. Department Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark A. Villar said the regional and district engineering offices in Mindanao have been instructed to deploy teams “to immediately conduct rapid damage assessment and needs analysis” for repairs to ensure public safety. The DPWH regional offices have so far reported that all national roads in Mindanao are passable. In the meantime, classes and work in government offices were suspended in most parts of Region 12 (SOCCSKSARGEN composed of South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, and General Santos City) as well as in parts of Region 11 (Davao).
Meanwhile, Mindanao’s power situation is back to normal after the tremor, the Department of Energy (DoE) said as it called on the public to be vigilant in reporting toppled distribution and transmission poles in their areas. “As of this reporting, there are no damages to both upstream and downstream oil facilities,” the DoE said in its update on Thursday morning. “The power transmission backbone in Mindanao remains intact,” it said, adding that updates will be provided. DoE also said that the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines has mobilized its line personnel to conduct line assessments and restorations, if needed. The National Electrification Administration (NEA), in a separate statement, also said affected power distribution services in some areas have returned to normal. NEA said that based on the monitoring report of its Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Department as of 8 a.m. Thursday, all electric cooperatives (ECs) that experienced power interruptions due to the tremor are now back to normal operations. Eight electric cooperatives serving parts of Regions 11 and 12 were affected. NDRRMC said the regional DRRM offices are continuously monitoring all affected areas and helping local governments deliver response actions where needed. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) recorded 251 aftershocks as of 7 a.m. Thursday, almost 12 hours after the main shock. — with a report from Victor V. Saulon