On 15 December at 2:11 p.m. local time, a 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck Matanao municipality in the province of Davao del Sur, Mindanao. This is the fourth quake above magnitude 6 in the last two months to hit this part of Mindanao, all within a radius of 12km: 6.3-magnitude on 16 October; 6.6 on 29 October; 6.5 on 31 October and now 6.9 on 15 December. The October earthquakes partially or totally damaged over 47,600 houses. In Davao del Sur alone 13,200 houses were damaged, out of which 3,200 were destroyed. This number is expected to rise as the assessments of the latest event come in. OCHA analysis indicates there are some 838,000 people living in the area worst affected by all four earthquakes.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology stated the earthquake may have been caused by the move of the Tangbulan Fault running along Davao del Sur and is not directly related to the October earthquakes, attributed to the movements in the Cotabato fault system.
All municipalities in Davao del Sur were affected, while the initial reports indicate Padada, Hagonoy, Matanao and Magsaysay are among the hardest hit. Three people have been reported dead and 23 injured, though the number is expected to rise. Authorities struggle conducting search and retrieval operations because of the rains on Sunday night and hundreds of aftershocks that continue to shake the grounds. Padada town, close to the epicenter, already declared the state of calamity. In Hagonoy, at least 660 houses are partially or totally damaged, including a totally damaged hospital.
Initial reports by local authorities indicate that some 50,000 people are newly displaced in Matanao and Digos, Davao del Sur. Sufficient number of evacuation centers is yet to be put in place and many people are staying out in the open, in front of their houses. The number of displaced is expected to increase once remote areas are reached and the cumulative impact of all four earthquakes better understood. For example, during the October earthquakes, families in some landslide-prone sub-villages of Bansalan, Davao Del Sur were evacuated and the areas declared as high risk. According to the authorities, the latest tremor will possibly increase the number of mandatory evacuations, including among indigenous population. A 12km road to barangay Holonsabak in Matanao, inhabited exclusively by IPs, was already declared non-passable as of yesterday and the authorities are exploring re-routing options.
Assessments of structural damage to buildings are yet be conducted. In Davao City, the quake caused significant damage to a bridge and commercial buildings. A number of government buildings were damaged in Padada town, including the local police station and the local fire station. In Digos City, several buildings that survived a series of quakes in October have now either collapsed or suffered further damages.
Initial reports suggest the most pressing need by affected people at the moment is water as most water sources, including the pipes, were damaged. Tents and mosquito nets are also urgently needed.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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