A powerful 6.8 magnitude undersea earthquake rocked the Philippines on Friday, Nov. 17, officials said. The quake occurred in the southern Mindanao region at 4:14 p.m. local time. Although initially logged as having a magnitude of 7.2, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) later downgraded the earthquake to 6.8, local news reported. There is currently no tsunami warning in effect.
When news of the earthquake first broke on Friday, it was logged that no injuries or casualties had been noted, yet reports of both have since emerged. At present, the official death toll remains unknown. The Office of Civil Defense told TIME in an email on Saturday that “information on the number of casualties is all subject to validation.”
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRMMC) told TIME in a separate email that it had tallied a total of seven deaths so far, but is still verifying reports. The working group is currently investigating three reported deaths in General Santos City, South Cotabato, two in Glan, Sarangani, one in Jose Abad Santos, Davao Occidental, and another in Malapatan, Sarangani. TIME reached out to the relevant government authorities for further details.
Local police told TIME that three people have died in General Santos City. Corporal Christopher Laraño, of General Santos City Police Station 4, told TIME in a phone call at around 1 a.m. Saturday local time that his police station now "had two victims of the earthquake.” He said a married couple—believed to be an 18-year-old female and a 26-year-old male—died when a wall fell on them.
Speaking from Police Station 6, Corporal Peter Paul Malangan told TIME that one person had been found dead in a mall in General Santos City at around 12:30 a.m. on Saturday, local time. Others were injured, Malangan said, but he could not provide an exact number during the phone call.
Sarangani’s government confirmed three deaths in the province—two in Glan and one in Malapatan—in an official report posted to Facebook on Sunday. The government reported 61 people had been injured in Glan: 56 with minor injuries, four with serious wounds and one pregnant person, who was referred to another city for treatment. Four people were admitted to the hospital in Malapatan.
Authorities said more than 1,500 households were impacted, with houses damaged or livelihoods disrupted, across the province. Glan Municipal Hall suffered major damage and has been declared unsafe for occupancy.
Amid the fallout from the 6.8 magnitude earthquake, Glan police were reportedly dispatched to check on a landslide in a nearby village on Saturday. Sarangani’s governor, Rogelio “Ruel” Pacquiao, shared an update on the government’s Facebook page around midnight Friday. He said that local agencies were conducting ongoing assessment of the damage. “But we have not received any report of major damage to buildings and infrastructure, he said. “Landslide going to [the] Glan area has been cleared and the road is now passable. Power supply and telecommunications are stabilized.” He urged the public to "stay vigilant" and "take precautionary measures."
On Saturday, the government of General Santos City, via its official Facebook page, said 541 individuals were brought to nearby hospitals. 509 people were treated as outpatients, while 32 were admitted. The announcement said that families of earthquake victims will be given financial assistance and hospital bills will be covered by the government.
In an earlier public post, the government shared an update from the city’s mayor, Lorelie Geronimo-Pacquiao, about disruption to the schooling system. “Classes are suspended in both public and private institutions from elementary to tertiary level until further notice.”
Earthquakes are common in the Philippines. The country lies on the "Ring of Fire," a belt of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean, prone to seismic activity.
Initial videos of the earthquake, shared by a local news outlet on Friday, showed people forced to evacuate from buildings and huddling on the floor of a shopping mall, amid thunderous shakes in General Santos City.
Further footage showed the quake causing signs and antennas on the top of a 17-story building to shake. The building's employees were safely evacuated, local media shared. The earthquake is also reported to have cracked and shut down the Old Buayan Bridge, which joins General Santos and Sarangani.
According to a local reporter, the airport in General Santos City sustained minor damage, including hairline cracks along columns in the building. They reported that no injuries had been logged among passengers or employees.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, the Philippine Red Cross shared via Facebook that it was “providing first aid and medical attention to students who collapsed."
The Philippines' Office of Civil Defense said in an email to TIME on Friday that the earthquake had resulted in power outages in General Santos, Lebak and Sultan Kudarat, in addition to damaged houses in Sarangani and an affected school. The office said it had sent emergency alerts and warnings to six areas. By 6:30 p.m. local time, power had been restored in some parts of General Santos City and the Province of Sarangani, the local government posted on its Facebook page.
With additional reporting from Chad de Guzman.
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