Quake cuts power in 3 provinces in Visayas
‘Substantial’ damage reported in SamarBy Joey A. Gabieta
TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines—Power was cut off in three provinces in Eastern Visayas following Friday’s magnitude 7.6 earthquake .
The tremor also damaged four bridges in Northern Samar and Eastern Samar as well as forced two malls in Tacloban City, Leyte to temporarily suspend their operations.
Friday’s earthquake was the strongest to hit Eastern Visayas in recent years, said Bobby Cañete of the Philippine Institute of Seismology and Volcanology (Philvocs) station in Palo town, Leyte.
“The last time we had a strong earthquake was in April 1995 which had a magnitude of 7.1,” he said.
Power was cut off in Leyte, Northern Samar and Eastern Samar after the National Grid Power Corp. shut off its power line seconds after the quake.
Power was restored in Leyte past 10 p.m. on Friday, said Rolando Hidalgo, president the Leyte II Electric Cooperative. But parts of Eastern Samar and Northern Samar were still without power Saturday afternoon, according to Northern Samar Governor Paul Daza and Mayor Annaliza Gonzales-Kwan of Guiuan in Eastern Samar.
The NGCP claimed, however, that power transmission network in the Visayas was normalized on Saturday afternoon.
Elmer Cruz, NGCP Visayas public affairs officer, said the transmission network, which connects the power producers to distributors, was fully restored at 3:47 p.m.
Power was restored in Eastern Samar after the repair of the 69-kv Wright-Taft-Borongan-McArthur transmission line. A cross arm of a transmission pole was broken due to the earthquake, Cruz said.
Consumers of Eastern Samar Electric Cooperative (Esamelco) were affected by power outages since 10:11 p.m. Friday until 3:47 Saturday.
But power interruptions and brownouts could continue if the transmission lines of the distributors were damaged by the quake or if the distributors had other technical problems, Cruz said.
He clarified that the power interruption in Northern Samar and parts of Samar province was due to a scheduled maintenance work.
The power interruption scheduled from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday was due to the replacement of poles along the 69kV Calbayog- Palanas Cara-Catarman-Bobolosan transmission line, according to an earlier NGCP advisory.
Aside from the brownout, Mayor Kwan said there was no serious damage in Guiuan except for two old houses that were damaged.
But in Northern Samar, the earthquake damaged a bridge in Catarman and the San Lucban Bridge in Bobon town, said Governor Daza. He said there were also cracks on the seawalls in San Isidro and Bobon towns.
“Easily, the damage to infrastructure is substantial. We are still in the process of assessing other damage caused by the earthquake. But we can say that the damage could run into millions of pesos,” Daza said.
Records from the Office of Civil Defense in Eastern Visayas showed that the approaches of two bridges in Eastern Samar were also destroyed during the quake. These were the Buyayawan Bridge in Mercedes town and the Layug Bridge in San Julian town.
A wall of an old building in Maasin City, Southern Leyte also collapsed during the tremor. Authorities were still monitoring the extent of the damage.
Two shopping malls in Tacloban City were also forced to suspend their operations after “superficial” cracks were found on the walls.
According to city architect Danny Fuentebella, the initial assessment showed that 10 percent of the walls of Robinsons Mall walls had cracks. “But these are all superficial cracks which could easily be repaired,” he said.
Norben Maldetira of the Robinsons Mall administrative staff said their architects and engineers would have to assess the condition of the building before the mall is reopened. He added they also had to clean the mall of broken items like television sets and vases that fell during the earthquake.
The management of Gaisano Mall also decided not to open on Saturday to assess the damage caused by the earthquake on the structure.
Thousands of people from Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Southern Leyte and Leyte fled their homes when the earthquake struck and moved to higher ground for fear of a tsunami. But the evacuees returned to their homes after Philvocs lifted the tsunami alert at 12:10 a.m. Saturday.
More than 1,000 people fled to Kanhuraw Hill, one of the highest elevated areas in Tacloban and home to the Tacloban City Hall.
One of them was Julian Panis who left his home in Tacloban after he heard on the radio that the earthquake might trigger a tsunami. “We were afraid that we’d be hit by the tsunami as announced over the radio,” he said.
Others, like Ecole Gaviola, went to Santo Niño Church to pray. “We were all frightened. It was so strong we thought it’s the end,” he said.
Mayor Manuel Sia Que of Dulag, Leyte, said thousands of his constituents also fled to higher ground.
“They went as far as Dagami, Burauen and Lapaz,” he said, referring to nearby towns which are far from the coastline of Leyte Gulf. Dulag faces the Leyte Gulf.
Aside from Eastern Visayas, the tremor was also felt in Cebu, Iloilo, Capiz, Negros Occidental and Bohol.
Call Center agents in Cebu were told to go out of the building when the earthquake hit at 8:47 p.m.
Jay Ann Garrido, call center agent of Aegis People’s Support at Cebu IT Park, said they went back to the office past 10 p.m. after the buildings were checked.
RJ Leduna of SM Cebu City said most customers, including those inside the moviehouses, rushed outside the mall when the quake happened.
With reports from Jani Arnaiz, Jhunnex Napallacan, Nestor P. Burgos Jr. and Carla P. Gomez, Inquirer Visayas