On Friday, a powerful magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck the southern Philippines, triggering widespread panic, evacuations, and even causing part of a shopping mall ceiling to collapse. The seismic event, centred off Sarangani province on the main southern island of Mindanao, sent shockwaves across the region.
The US Geological Survey reported that the earthquake hit at a depth of 78 kilometres at 0814 GMT, with its epicentre off Sarangani province. Despite the substantial magnitude, no tsunami threat was issued. The quake’s impact, however, was deeply felt across a wide area of the mountainous island, prompting people to flee buildings in fear for their safety.
Residents, including Keeshia Leyran from Davao City, roughly 200 kilometres from the epicentre, described the earthquake as the strongest they had ever experienced. Leyran recounted scenes of mayhem, “People around me were panicking and running to go outside. There are hundreds of people here at the event, so I was more scared of a stampede happening to be honest.”
Structural Damage and Evacuations
In General Santos City, less than 100 kilometres from the epicentre, a shopping mall witnessed part of its ceiling collapsing. A photo shared on social media verified by AFP captured this alarming scene. Approximately 30 students at a high school in the same city received medical attention for breathing difficulties resulting from panic following the quake. Emergency medical services worker Adrian Imbong highlighted the need to address the psychological impact on individuals affected by the sudden tremors.
Despite the initial shock and chaos, emergency responders displayed swift action. Sarangani municipality police officer Captain Giecarrjune Villarin described the quake as “really strong,” prompting him and colleagues to evacuate their building. Fortunately, there were no immediate reports of casualties or substantial damage.
Impact on Schools and Infrastructure
Some schools in Jose Abad Santos municipality in Davao Occidental province reported structural damage, including cracks in their buildings. Jason Sioco, a member of the local disaster agency, reassured that, as of the initial reports, there were no injuries or substantial damage. The incident did, however, disrupt power and telephone signals temporarily in certain areas.
Ring of Fire
The Philippines is no stranger to seismic activity, experiencing daily earthquakes due to its location along the Pacific “Ring of Fire.” This geological arc, characterised by intense seismic and volcanic activity, extends from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.
The earthquake in the southern Philippines serves as a testament to the unpredictable nature of seismic events in a region accustomed to such occurrences. The initial panic and structural damage emphasise the importance of robust emergency response systems and community resilience.