Rains delay Batanes rescue | Inquirer News

Rains delay Batanes rescue

Retrieval efforts deemed unsafe; earthquake survivors take shelter in tents

Rains delay Batanes rescue

QUAKE DAMAGE An aerial shot of Itbayat town center in Batanes province shows open spaces where residents have set up tents and makeshift shelters after the island province was rocked by successive earthquakes last week. —MALACAÑANG PHOTO

BASCO, Batanes, Philippines — Search and retrieval operations in earthquake-hit Itbayat town were suspended on Sunday since poking through the ruins amid intermittent rains was not deemed safe, Batanes Gov. Marilou Cayco said on Monday.

“It’s very dangerous [for the rescue teams] to search through the rubble,” she said, adding that rescue personnel would resume the operations using a backhoe on late Monday or early Tuesday.


Edwin Ponce, 32, who was earlier reported killed but whose body was yet to be recovered, was pulled out on Monday from a boulder at a collapsed cave in Barangay Sta. Maria in Itbayat.


Ponce took shelter in the cave when the ground started shaking but was buried alive. He was the ninth fatality from the tremors that jolted Itbayat on Saturday.

The eight other fatalities were Tito Asa, 88; Fausta Caan, 73; Teresita Gulaga, 76; Gerward Mina, 31; Haisley Cheff Naquita, 5 days old; Eva Valiente, 19; Fiona Valiente, 10 days old; and Mary Rose Valiente, 13.

Their bodies were recovered from a collapsed building.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said the first tremor, which occurred at 4:16 a.m. on Saturday, was measured at 5.4 magnitude. This was followed by a second, stronger jolt at 5.9 magnitude about three hours later.

A third temblor hit Basco at 9:24 a.m. on Sunday with a 5.8 magnitude while a weaker tremor at 4.9 was felt at 6:11 p.m.

The quakes, which were followed by several aftershocks, injured more than 60 people.


Cayco said engineers from the Department of Public Works and Highways had been sent to Itbayat to assess the damage to houses and buildings.

Stress debriefing

She said quake survivors would need to undergo stress debriefing to regain a sense of normalcy. She said most villagers in Itbayat, the northernmost town, were rendered homeless and could have been traumatized by the quakes.

In Manila, Secretary Eduardo del Rosario, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) chair, said the National Housing Authority (NHA) would provide families affected by the earthquakes with emergency funds within the week.

Rains delay Batanes rescue

CRUMBLING Sections of a decades-old Ivatan stone house in Itbayat crumble amid intense ground shaking when strong earthquakes struck on July 27. —ARNEL COMAYA / CONTRIBUTOR

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the 7th Asia-Pacific Housing Forum, Del Rosario said the NHA, an agency attached to the HUDCC, would give P30,000 each to residents whose houses were destroyed. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) would give them another P30,000.

Those with damaged houses can get P20,000 from the NHA and P10,000 from the DSWD.

P40M committed

While there was no final estimate of damages yet, Del Rosario said President Duterte had committed to build a hospital and improve the airport in Itbayat.

“The President committed P40 million for the construction of a hospital in Itbayat, since it is an island in the northernmost tip of the country, and it has to survive on its own. The airport will also be widened and the runway will be lengthened,” he said.

While most houses in Itbayat can withstand strong typhoons, the limestone construction materials make these vulnerable to earthquakes, Del Rosario said.

“Even one-story buildings will surely collapse if not designed to withstand earthquakes,” he said, adding that “the only way to make buildings safe is to follow the building code.”

“Our code requires buildings to be able to withstand 6- to 7-magnitude earthquakes,” he said.

On Sunday, Cayco accompanied Mr. Duterte in inspecting the houses and buildings damaged or destroyed by the quakes.

Dire situation

About 800 houses in Itbayat have been either destroyed or damaged by the tremors and about 900 survivors are staying at makeshift shelters in the town plaza.

Rains delay Batanes rescue

DISPLACED Residents of Itbayat have yet to return to their damaged homes, preferring to stay in tents while aftershocks jolt the town. —NATHAN ALCANTARA

“People in Itbayat are in a dire situation … They are staying in tents and are in a daze,” Cayco told a television interview.

She cautioned them against returning home amid an ongoing assessment of their damaged houses and other establishments.

“There are tents but these are not enough. Itbayat residents need temporary shelters, especially now that we are in a typhoon season,” she said.

“What they (quake survivors) need is food because none of them wants to return to their damaged houses.”

Bishop’s appeal

Cayco also called on the Department of Health to send additional doctors and medicines as evacuees staying in the tents could contract illnesses due to exposure to heat at daytime and cold at night.

Batanes Bishop Danilo Ulep appealed for financial aid for the quake victims.

“Right now, all we are accepting are financial assistance because the other needs like food, water, medicines, etc. are being addressed by the government,” Ulep said in a statement posted on the website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Fr. Ronaldo Manabat, the Batanes prelature’s vice chancellor, said some people were using a fake Facebook account of Ulep to raise money supposedly for quake victims. —WITH A REPORT FROM PATRICIA DENISE M. CHIU


© Copyright 1997-2024 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.