Quake survivors warned to check homes before moving back in
Updated: 11:44 p.m., Feb. 12, 2017
SURIGAO CITY — Officials on Sunday warned survivors of a powerful earthquake that left at least eight people dead in northeastern Mindanao to ensure their homes and buildings were sturdy enough before venturing back amid continuing aftershocks.
A strong aftershock alarmed residents, some of whom screamed in fear, while waiting for President Duterte to arrive to console earthquake survivors gathered in a gymnasium in the hard-hit capital of Surigao del Norte province.
The 6.7-magnitude quake struck late Friday, killing at least seven people, injuring more than 200 and damaging the main airport and about 1,000 houses in Surigao.
Some residents said the shaking was so strong they could not stand up to rush out of their houses.
Officials appealed for volunteer engineers to help check the stability of damaged schools, hospitals, malls, hotels and other buildings, especially in the provincial capital of Surigao City, which has been placed under a state of calamity to ensure a rapid release of emergency funds and prevent food hoarding.
Power was restored on Sunday in some parts of the city.
Homes must be safe
“Our call is do not return hastily after the strong quake,” said Romina Marasigan, spokesperson of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). “We have to ensure that our residences are safe.”
“The critical infrastructure—the schools, the hospitals and offices that provide services—should also be checked if they are still safe for use,” Marasigan said.
“We are again reiterating our appeal for help from civil and structural engineers to ensure the safety of the people,” she added.
Renato Solidum, who heads the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, said at least 137 aftershocks had hit following the quake.
“Aftershocks are normal after a strong earthquake. Typically, these may last for days, up to weeks,” Solidum said.
Among the structures damaged by the quake were 12 schools, six bridges and some shopping malls, many of which had visible cracks, shattered glass windows and damaged canopies.
The quake may have busted tap water pipes, limiting supply in Surigao City, which lies about 700 kilometers southeast of Manila, and three outlying towns, officials said.
Mr. Duterte, accompanied by Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, arrived more than three hours late in Surigao City because his entourage had to make a detour following the closure of its airport due to deep cracks in its runway.
He later pledged P2 billion in financial help to quake survivors needing medical treatment.
Relief goods arrive
A government plane loaded with relief supplies and emergency aid landed on Sunday morning in Butuan City for overland transport to Surigao City and nearby towns as authorities moved to restore power and water supply in the quake-stricken areas.
Even so, life appeared to be returning to normal, according to Surigao del Norte Vice Gov. Carlos Egay.
NDRRMC Executive Director Ricardo Jalad said the Philippine Air Force Lockheed C-130 “Hercules” cargo aircraft transported 10 generator sets, 150 solar lamps, 30,000 pieces of disaster relief packs, 4,090 bars of brown rice, 100 rolls of laminated sacks, 2,000 pieces of mosquito nets, 2,000 plastic mats and 2,000 blankets.
The plane left Villamor Air Base in Pasay City at around
6 a.m. and landed about an hour later in Butuan City’s Bancasi Airport loaded with goods for overland transport to Surigao City.
“We’re still being hit by aftershocks, and as of now we do not have tap water supply. The people are suffering,” provincial information officer Mary Escalante said in a television interview.
“Buildings that suffered structural damage have been closed,” Escalante said, adding some schools and gyms that were meant to serve as evacuation centers were among those damaged by the quake.
Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial advised residents to refrain from drinking water from faucets. —Reports from Chris V. Panganiban, Danilo Adorador, Jerome Aning, Marlon Ramos, Tina G. Santos, Dona Z. Pazzibugan, and the wires