Quake-hit Davao del Sur towns declare state of calamity

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Padada has declared on Monday a state of calamity due to the damage the town took from the 6.9-magnitude quake.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 16) – The towns of Padada and Hagonoy in Davao del Sur have declared a state of calamity due to the damage it took from the 6.9-magnitude quake that struck Sunday afternoon.

Padada Mayor Pedro Caminero made the announcement on Monday morning, less than 24 hours after the strong quake struck the town.

Caminero also revealed that the number of casualties rose to four after a female body was retrieved under the rubble of the collapsed three-storey building of South Green grocery store. The body was already identified by the family members.

The mayor added that six bodies are believed to be still trapped in the collapsed building.

Monday's Misa de Gallo in some parts of the town were also interrupted after one of their churches sustained damage, Caminero said.

"Nasira rin yung church namin dito...Saint Michael Parish, nandoon na sila sa gym [nagsimba]," Caminero said in a chance interview.

[Translation: Our local church was also damaged...the Saint Michael Parish, the people had to hear Mass in a gymnasium.]

Retrieval officers of Padada told the media that consecutive aftershocks have been hampering their search and rescue operations inside the Southern Trade grocery store to extract the seven remaining victims.

Meanwhile, the municipal council of Hagonoy also declared a state of calamity due to extensive damage caused by the strong earthquake.

The quake struck at 2:11 p.m. on Sunday, the strongest in the series of quakes that hit Mindanao since October.

The quake was felt at Intensity 7 and was classified by Phivolcs as "destructive" in Magsaysay and in Matanao, where a 6-year-old girl died inside her house that collapsed.

At least 10,000 families displaced in Digos, Matanao

At least 10,000 families will likely spend Christmas in evacuation camps due to the strong quake and ongoing aftershocks.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Matanao, Davao del Sur Mayor Vincent Fernandez said 9,000 families from 33 villages had to be displaced from their homes while Digos City, Davao del Sur Mayor Josef Cagas said 1,900 families were sent to evacuation camps after Sunday's tremor.

Fernandez added that due to heavily damaged water tanks and other infrastructures, they are in dire need of water, shelter assistance, and additional food packs as their buffer supply was only estimated for two weeks.

"Di talaga sila makakabalik for now...baka abutin pa kami ng six months (they really won't be able to return to their homes for now...it might even take us six months)," he said.

DOST Undersecretary Renato Solidum said more aftershocks are expected "within 24 hours or even within the week."

Phivolcs recorded 479 aftershocks as of 7:00 a.m. after the quake struck the region.

179 aftershocks were recorded in Davao del Sur alone in the first four hours after the quake hit the area. From 12:00 mn up to 11:00 a.m. today, at least 38 aftershocks were recorded anew in the province alone, as seen in its earthquake information website.

"Aftershocks are typically at the highest in terms of number in the first 24 hours–still high during the second or third day. Within the week we can still expect aftershocks. But with time though, the number of aftershocks will decrease," Solidum said.

He added that the quake was most likely generated by the Tangbulan Fault, which generated a large earthquake in years.

Solidum advised residents to stay away from houses and buildings that were damaged by the earthquake until these have been inspected and declared safe to use by competent engineers and architects.

Calamity Leave Law

Meanwhile, Rep. Joey Salceda filed a bill that would allow workers both in the private and public sector to file a two-day emergency leave if affected by natural disasters or calamity.

Salceda has filed House Bill No. 5775 or the "Calamity Leave Law" which allows employees, who have rendered at least six months, shall be entitled to a two-day special emergency leave with pay every year.

The measure proposes that the special leave must given to employees if they are stranded in affected areas; incurred disease or illnesses brought by the calamity; caring for immediate family members; and need to help in repairing or rebuilding the house.

Leaves taken by the employees must be certified by the local disaster management office of their respective province or city.

Senator Leila de Lima has also filed a similar bill this year.

CNN Philippines' Carolyn Bonquin, Triciah Terada, Paolo Barcelon, and Vince Ferreras contributed to this report.