GENERAL SANTOS City — A fire that broke out at the Gaisano Mall here, after the magnitude 6.3 earthquake Wednesday evening damaged 75 percent of the 2.3-hectare shopping complex at a cost of P2 billion, authorities said.
The City Social Welfare and Development Office has set up a help desk to assist the affected workers starting yesterday at their office along Matalam Road corner Roxas Avenue.
Affected mall employees were advised to bring valid company identification cards.
The Bureau of Fire Protection declared “fire out” by 1 pm Thursday, more than 16 hours after the fire broke out, according to Chief Insp. Reginald Legaste, city fire marshal.
The fire erupted following a strong aftershock past 8 pm Wednesday, according to Dr. Agripino Dacera Jr., head of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology reported a magnitude 5.5 quake at 8:09 pm, or 32 minutes after the main quake.
“As of now, the fire in several sections of the mall was already contained but the operations are still ongoing,” he said in a radio interview around 8:30 am, adding that firefighters coming from as far as Davao City helped out battle the fire.
Dacera, who led the emergency and support operations at the scene, said there were no reported casualties as mall-goers and employees were immediately evacuated when the fire started.
But a total of 1,500 Gaisano workers were reportedly affected in the fire.
Dacera, quoting mall personnel, said the fire originated at the kitchenware, furniture and plastic ware sections at the ground level.
It eventually reached the second level and rapidly spread to the other sections.
In another development, minor cracks were found at the city hall building here while portions of the ceiling of two shopping malls and several other structures here have collapsed as a result of the earthquake.
Mayor Ronnel Rivera said the latest earthquake mainly aggravated some cracks at the main city hall building due to previous temblors but the entire structure remains generally safe.
He said the assessment, which covered the city gymnasium and 10 other structures, was conducted by personnel from the City Engineer’s Office led by assistant city engineer Emerald Signar.
The cracks were found at the stairs of the city hall building and the City Agriculture Office’s training center, which is currently undergoing retrofitting.
“So far, the entire city hall building and other structures are safe so we’re business as usual,” the mayor declared in a briefing.
Meanwhile, eight localities in South Cotabato province suspended classes in public and private schools Thursday to check the integrity of campus facilities following the magnitude 6.3 earthquake, an official said.
Rolly Doanne Aquino, operations and warning head of the South Cotabato Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, said the class suspensions seek to ensure the safety of students, as the tremor could have damaged school buildings.
As of Thursday morning, the local government units that suspended classes were the capital Koronadal City and the towns of Tupi, Tampakan, Tantangan, T’boli, Norala, Lake Sebu and Banga, Aquino said. (mindanews)