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At least 4 now dead after Davao del Sur earthquake

PADADA, Davao del Sur – Authorities here on Monday, December 16, said 3 people have been confirmed dead, with two of the bodies having been recovered following a magnitude 6.9 earthquake which struck the town of Padada and other areas on Sunday afternoon.

The figure brought to 4 the total number of victims killed in Sunday's earthquake in Davao del Sur, including a 6-year-old girl in Barangay Asinan in Matanao town, who was hit by falling debris.

Fire Senior Supt. Fred Trajeras of the Bureau of Fire Protection - Region 11, said the dead bodies of Elsa Ababon, 57; and Evangeline Artiaga, 67; were pulled out of the collapsed Southern grocery store in Barangay Poblacion on Monday morning.

“The other confirmed casualty has not been pulled out yet,” Trajeras told reporters.

He said at least 6 persons being located inside the collapsed grocery store based on the account of a survivor.

Trajeras said this was the main reason they have shifted from plain recovery to search and rescue anew.

Mayor Pedro Caminero, quoting the town's police, said only one family had reported about a missing relative.

He did not say who was the missing though but said in total, 6 persons also suffered varying degrees of injuries from the tremor.

Caminero also said they were looking at liquefaction in the collapse of the grocery store, which he said was built around 20 years ago.

Trajeras said they were using heavy equipment to safely remove debris and find the six reported missing persons.

He said search, rescue and retrieval teams are now using life detection and life finder instruments.

“We are trying to listen to heartbeats and movements to locate them. However, these instruments could also give false signs because it would detect the movement and heartbeats of other animals,” Trajeras added.

Locals milling around the collapsed grocery store building, whom Rappler had spoken to, said they believed there were more trapped people inside as it was a market day when the quake took place.

“The grocery store was a major place here. It would be full on Sundays that you would have difficulty moving around,” one local said of the 3-story building now reduced to a single floor.

“I believe there are more people inside who are either dead or waiting to be rescued,” said another.

Caminero said despite the difficulties, they were trying their best to pluck out people alive.

“We are grateful for the help of the rescuers such as Central 911 of Davao City, the Bureau of Fire Caraga, the Bureau of Fire in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the Bureau of Fire in Region 11 and all the rescuers,” he said.

Caminero said they were still uncertain of how much damage was inflicted, with assessments still being done. But he said some government buildings are now useless, including the local police office and the local fire station.

In Digos City, several buildings that survived the earthquakes in October had either collapsed or been further damaged.

Mayor Josef Cagas said they were also trying to assess the damage.

Across Davao del Sur and the nearby Davao Occidental, the provincial governments have declared the suspension of classes as aftershocks, some moderately strong, continued to be felt as of Monday. – Rappler.com