MANILA, Philippines [UPDATE 4] – At least 40 residents of Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, were confirmed dead from the 6.9-magnitude earthquake that hit the province and other parts of the Visayas on Monday, February 6, the Army said.
This number is on top of earlier casualities reported: 2 in Tayasan, and 1 in Jimalalud, also in Negros Oriental.
Army Col. Ramil Bitong, commander of the 11th infantry battalion based in Guihulngan City, said that the quake killed at least 40 in the city, injured 15 residents and destroyed 100 homes, including the public market.
Power lines have been cut off, and the La Libertad bridge that connects the city to nearby Dumaguete is no longer passable, Bitong told Rappler in a phone interview. He appealed for the restoration of power and communication lines, as well as assistance to homeless residents.
Others remain trapped under houses that collapsed, according to other local authorities.
As of 6 pm, however, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) put the death toll at 12. Disaster management authorities admitted, however, that the number could rise.
Province-based news sites say that mountain villages in Guihulngan were the ones badly hit. Quoting Gov. Roel Degamo, Sun Star Cebu said as many as 30 house were buried.
After shocks were still felt in Negros Oriental as late as shortly past 6 pm, reports added.
The magnitude 6.9 earthquake occurred at around 11:49 am, and the epicenter was located at 09.97°N, 123.14°E, or 5 kilometers northwest of Tayasan, Negros Occidental, according to data from the Philippine Instutute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).
The quake was felt in the Negros provinces, Cebu, and in parts of Western and Northern Mindanao.
Phivolcs reported the following intensities:
- Intensity VII – Dumaguete City
- Intensity VI – La Carlota City and La Castellana, Negros Occidental
- Intensity V – Roxas City; Dao and Ivisan, Capiz; Iloilo City
- Intensity IV – San Jose de Buenavista and Pandan Antique; Ayungon, Negros Oriental; Kalibo, Aklan; Sagay, Negros Occidental; Dipolog City
- Intensity III – Butuan City, Agusan del Norte; Legaspi City, Albay; Carmen, Cagayan de Oro
- Intensity II – Cabid-an, Sorsogon
The Phivolcs reported the quake is of tectonic origin, and located the depth of focus at 10 kilometers below the surface.
The agency announced a Tsunami Alert Level 2 for areas around the Tañon Strait (eastern coast of Negros island and the western coast of Cebu), warning residents of a possible sea level rise. It was later lifted at around 2:30 pm Philippine time.
Evacuation is not mandatory under Alert Level 2, but people are advised to stay away from the coast as much as possible.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reports at least 7 people dead due to the quake: 4 in Guihulngan City, 2 in Tayasan, and 1 in Jimalalud, all in Negros Oriental.
Bouncing cables, swaying towers
In Cebu City, the quake caused electric cables to bounce and telecommunication towers to sway, and people went out of buildings to the streets, said Cebu-based photographer Charlie Saceda.
“Residents stopped as they felt the tremor… mothers who went to a nearby fela market stated runnig towards their homes,” Saceda said.
The quake was felt for about 15 to 30 seconds, he said.
Firetrucks were deployed by the city government to check on damages to property.
Bombo Radyo in Cebu reported that the Coast Guard was placed on alert following tsunami warnings, while the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council was convened.
Classes, work stop
Classes in Barangay Camputhaw were temporarily put on hold because one of their buildings had cracks.
Meanwhile, the grounds of the 24-hectare Cebu IT Park were filled with employees who evacuated the various buildings in the area after the quake.
Work and classes in some cities, such as in Iloilo and Bacolod, have also been suspended due to the quake.
Phivolcs chief Renato Solidum told radio dzBB said they are expecting reports of damage due to the quake, especially in weak structures.
The USGS earlier reported the initial quake as a magnitude 6.8 tremor, with the epicenter off Negros Occidental – with reports from Charlie Saceda/Rappler.com