At least 12 people have been killed and 60 injured in an explosion at a night market in Davao City in the Philippines, an official told CNN Philippines.
Chief Superintendent Manuel Gaerlan, the director of Region 11 of the Philippine National Police, told CNN Philippines that 10 people had died at the scene, and two had died after being taken to the Southern Philippines Medical Center.
He said the situation was fluid, and a maximum deployment of police and armed forces had been called in to secure the region.
He asked the public to be vigilant, adding that the government was on the watch “in case there are other attacks.”
He said Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, whose hometown is Davao City, was heading to the explosion site. It occurred at a busy night market known to attract thousands, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.
Paolo Duterte, Davao City’s vice mayor and the President’s son, told CNN Philippines that 60 people had been injured in the blast.
Authorities were still trying to confirm the cause of the explosion, he said. While the city was not on lockdown, there was an alcohol ban in place, and officials had asked people in the area to return to their homes.
Noel Vilanueva, medical director of Davao Doctors Hospitals, told CNN Philippines that four patients had been brought to the facility, one of whom required surgery for a leg injury. That patient had metal fragments in the wounds.
‘I am really scared’
Leonor Rala, a 19-year-old medical technology student at San Pedro College, told CNN that she was in her dorm and about to go to bed when she heard an explosion.
She initially thought something had fallen on the roof of a neighboring building, then went down to survey the scene of the blast, about 100 yards from her dorm. Emergency teams were already in place.
“I am really scared to go out,” she said. “The roads are closed and nobody’s allowed to go out of the city. There are bomb threats everywhere and some of my schoolmates are victims of the explosion and now dead.”
She continued: “We’re very terrified because Davao City was known to be the safest city in the Philippines and a situation like this is very rare.”
Witness Janoz Laquihon told CNN Philippines he was at the scene at the time of the blast.
“I saw some smoke. I thought it’s just barbecue. A few minutes later…a big blast.”
Witness Father Jboy Gonzales told CNN Philippines that he saw more than 30 casualties being loaded onto ambulances.
“[A] lot of people are wounded, shocked, traumatized,” he said.
Davao City Government tweeted on its official account: “Let us pray for the victims of this unfortunate incident, especially for those who died.”
Duterte, who took office at the end of June, made his name in politics as the mayor of Davao City. His term in office was noted for his hardline stance on drug crime that he has now incorporated into his national policies. It’s resulted in more than 1,900 people being killed in a crackdown, which has drawn criticism at home and abroad.
Maria Ressa, executive editor of Philippines news website Rappler, said the blast had occurred amid tensions surrounding Duterte’s war on drugs, as well as an ongoing peace process with Muslim militants in the southern Philippines. Philippines troops are trying to crush Abu Sayyaf, an Islamist militant group outside the peace process.