A magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck the southern Philippines on Friday afternoon, causing widespread damage and injuries in General Santos City and nearby areas.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) said the quake occurred at 4:03 p.m. local time, with its epicenter located 23 kilometers southeast of Maasim town in Sarangani province. The quake had a depth of 49 kilometers and was tectonic in origin.
The quake was felt as far as the Bangsamoro provinces of Maguindanao del Norte, Maguindanao del Sur, Lanao del Sur and in the adjoining Sultan Kudarat, Cotabato and South Cotabato provinces and in Koronadal City, the administrative seat of Region 12.
PHIVOLCS warned of possible aftershocks and damage from the quake, which was followed by several weaker tremors.
Buildings damaged, people injured
In General Santos City, several buildings were damaged by the strong quake, including malls, hotels, schools and government offices.
The city’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (DRRMC) said at least 40 people were injured by falling debris and glass shards from the damaged structures. Most of the injured were shoppers and employees of Robinsons Mall, which suffered extensive damage to its ceiling and walls.
The DRRMC also said that some patients and staff of hospitals in the city were evacuated to safer areas as a precautionary measure.
The city’s police chief, Col. Nicomedes Olaivar, said they have deployed personnel to secure the affected areas and assist in the rescue and relief operations.
Olaivar also appealed to the public to stay calm and avoid spreading false information about the quake.
“We are doing our best to ensure the safety and well-being of our people. We ask for your cooperation and understanding in this difficult time,” he said.
Quake triggers tsunami alert, power outage
The quake also triggered a tsunami alert for the coastal areas of Sarangani, Davao Occidental, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Davao de Oro, Davao del Norte, Davao City and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.
PHIVOLCS initially issued a tsunami warning level 2, which means that sea level changes of 0.5 to 1 meter are expected along the coast. The agency advised the public to stay away from the shore and seek higher ground.
However, the tsunami alert was later lifted at 5:29 p.m. after no significant sea level changes were observed.
The quake also caused a power outage in some parts of General Santos City and Sarangani province, according to the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).
The NGCP said it is still assessing the impact of the quake on its transmission facilities and power supply.
The Department of Energy (DOE) said it is coordinating with the NGCP and the power distributors to restore electricity as soon as possible.
President Marcos Jr. to visit quake-hit areas
President Bongbong Marcos said he will visit the quake-hit areas on Saturday to personally assess the situation and extend assistance to the affected communities.
“I am deeply saddened by the news of the earthquake that hit General Santos City and other parts of Mindanao. I extend my sympathies and prayers to those who lost their loved ones and properties in this calamity,” he said in a statement.
He also assured the public that the government is ready to provide immediate and long-term assistance to the quake victims.
“I have ordered the concerned agencies to mobilize all available resources and personnel to conduct rescue and relief operations, as well as to restore essential services and infrastructure in the affected areas. I also urge the local government units and the private sector to work together in addressing the needs of our people,” Marcos said.
He also appealed to the public to remain vigilant and follow the advisories of the authorities.
“Let us not lose hope and faith in this time of trial. Together, we will overcome this challenge and rebuild our communities,” he said.