FIVE PEOPLE have been confirmed to have died, all in Davao del Sur province, due to the magnitude 6.9 earthquake that struck Mindanao on Dec. 15.

Three deaths were at the three-floor Southern Trade commercial building in Padada town that collapsed, while six others are reportedly still trapped inside, according to Davao del Sur Provincial Information Officer Hiru Gustavo A. Undalok.

Rescue and retrieval operations were ongoing as of Monday as emergency teams coped with continued aftershocks.

The two other deaths, as reported by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, were a six-year old girl in Matanao town and another person in Hagonoy.

Meanwhile, all major thoroughfares in the affected provinces are “passable,” the Department of Public Works and Highways(DPWH) reported on Monday.

The DPWH regional and district offices are still conducting assessments to determine the extent of damage and check on the structural integrity of other roads, bridges, and public buildings.

Several local governments have suspended classes as well as work until DPWH and local engineers have given clearance to buildings.

“I have advised the regional prosecutor covering the Davao provinces to abide by any directive of the building official to temporarily stop work until the Hall of Justice and other structures housing our prosecutors’ offices have been inspected and cleared,” Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra told reporters in a mobile-phone message.

On relief operations, the Department of Social Welfare and Development Davao regional office said it has so far distributed about P1.178 million in goods to 1,145 families in the affected towns of Matanao, Padada, and Digos City.

A satellite operation center has been set up at the capitol complex in Digos City to “monitor the status of the internally displaced persons” as well as coordinate overall relief operations. — Carmelito Q. Francisco with reports from Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Arjay L. Balinbin

All hands on deck

Rescue units — including the Eastern Mindanao Command’s 512th Engineering Battalion, police, Bureau of Fire Protection, and the local disaster management office — work together for the search, rescue, and retrieval operations at the collapsed Southern Trade commercial building in Padada, Davao del Sur following the magnitude 6.9 earthquake on Dec. 15. Emergency response teams from various local governments in Mindanao have also been deployed to help in the operations.