Death toll hits 150; quake affects 3M
Rescuers on Wednesday raced to reach isolated communities in earthquake-devastated Bohol province, as aftershocks tormented survivors and the death toll surpassed 150.
A 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit Bohol, Cebu province and Siquijor Island in Central Visayas on Tuesday morning, toppling bridges, tearing down centuries-old churches and triggering landslides that engulfed entire homes.
President Aquino and Cabinet officials visited Bohol Wednesday to distribute relief goods and inspect the damage firsthand.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) told a late afternoon news conference on Wednesday that more than 3 million people from Bohol, Cebu and Siquijor were affected by the earthquake.
The towns of Loon and Maribojoc in Bohol, the epicenter of the quake, were isolated after bridges collapsed and landslides rendered roads impassable, the council said.
The two towns could be reached only by sea, it said.
By Wednesday afternoon, the death toll had climbed to more than 150.
Reynaldo Balido, spokesman for the NDRRMC, said more bodies were found under the rubble of collapsed buildings, including a hospital in Bohol.
First responders retrieved the bodies of two persons from the rubble of Cong. Nicasio P. Castillo Sr. Memorial Hospital in Bohol, he said.
Balido said the death toll was 144—134 in Bohol, nine in Cebu and one in Siquijor.
But the Bohol Provincial Police Office reported 144 deaths in Bohol, with Loon town having the most number of fatalities at 42.
In the town of Jetafe, the police said there were two fatalities; Clarin, four; Buenavista, two; Calape, five; Tubigon, seven; Balilihan, five; Inabanga, four; Batuan, one; Sagbayan, nine; Baclayon, one; the capital Tagbilaran City, four; Loay, two; Alburquerque, two; Maribojoc, 15; Bilar, six; Cortes, two; Catigbian, four; Antequera, 13; San Isidro, 10; Talibon, one; Trinidad, one; Danao, two; and Sierra Bullones, one.
Of those who died, 14 remained unidentified.
PO3 Carl John Legazpi, Bohol Police Office operations clerk, said 186 people were injured and 22 were missing, believed to be trapped in their homes.
“We are hoping they are still alive and will be found soon,” Balido said.
Executive Director Eduardo del Rosario of the NDRRMC said some of the missing may not be trapped in their homes but could be in hospitals.
Why lower figures
He said the NDRRMC had lower figures compared with those from the provincial disaster response offices because of the “delay in the reporting system” caused by fallen communication lines.
Data from the provincial regional office would be more accurate, he said.
Del Rosario said initial casualty figures being reported were “subject to validation.”
The figures become official only after the dead have been identified and their deaths confirmed by the Department of Health, he said.
Legazpi said most of the dead were crushed under collapsed homes and were buried in landslides.
Some of them died from a heart attack, he said.
Among the dead were 3-year-old Dario Amba and 5-year-old Ivan Gabuya, both from Alburquerque. They were pinned to death when their houses collapsed during the quake.
In Cebu, eight of the dead were crushed in fallen buildings. The ninth fatality, 4-year-old Shaiza Mila Petulina, died in a stampede in Pinamungajan town.
One died in Talisay City, five in Cebu City, and two in Mandaue City.
With toppled or damaged bridges, ripped-open roads and power outages fragmenting the island of about 1 million people, Balido said it was proving difficult for police and government rescuers to reach isolated communities.
At Loon, a small coastal town of about 40,000 people just 20 kilometers from the epicenter of the earthquake, shocked survivors wandered around the rubble of buildings looking for relatives.
Farmer Serafin Megallen said he dug with his hands, brick by brick, to retrieve his mother-in-law and cousin from the rubble of their home on Tuesday.
“They were alive but they died of their injuries three hours later. There was no rescue that came, we had to rely on neighbors for help,” Megallen said in interview with Agence France-Presse.
Megallen said a neighbor with a truck tried to drive the bodies to Loon’s funeral parlor, only to find out the bridge across a river on the way was destroyed.
The bodies were then taken across the river in a boat.
“But no one will give them last rites because the church was also destroyed,” Megallen said.
Ten churches, many of them dating back to centuries of Spanish colonial rule of the Philippines, were destroyed or badly damaged in Bohol and the neighboring island province of Cebu.
Loon’s limestone Our Lady of Light Church was reduced to mounds of crushed rocks.
Damage to infra
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said Wednesday that damage to roads and bridges in Bohol and Cebu had been estimated at P75.15 million.
In Bohol, 23 bridges that collapsed cost P57.8 million. In Cebu, partial damage to seven bridges amounts to P17.67 million, the DPWH said.
The agency said four major roads and 13 bridges in Bohol were destroyed or damaged by the quake.
Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said the Tagbilaran North, Tagbilaran East, Cortes-Balilihan-Catigbian-Macaas and Loay Interior roads were impassable.
“Aside from cracks, settlement of asphalt and concrete pavements, as well as slips, landslides also made the roads impassable,” Singson said, quoting a report from the DPWH Central Visayas office.
Three of the 13 bridges—Abatan and Moalong, both spanning the Tagbilaran North Road, and the Tagbuare Bridge over the Tagbilaran East Road—collapsed, Singson said.
Damaged and impassable are the Camayaan Bridge in Cortes town; Tultogan in Calape; Tagbuane in Albur; Hunan in Buenavista; Palo, Hinawanan, Bonkokan, Banban and Panangatan, all spanning the Tagbilaran East Road, and Agape in Loay.
Two other bridges—Suarez over the Dawis-Panglao Road and Salog over the Tagbilaran North Road—were also damaged but still passable, Singson said.
A flood-control structure on the Tagbilaran East Road was “totally destroyed,” Singson said.
In Cebu, the Carcar-Barili and Sibonga-Dumanjug roads had cracks but remained passable, he said.
“Other than the centuries-old Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in Cebu City, the Dalaguete town church and the provincial high school in the same municipality, no major damage has been reported on national government structures in the province,” a report from the DPWH Cebu office said.
Cebu City Disaster Office Operations Officer Alvin Santillana said the earthquake caused P331 million in damage to the city, mostly to private and public structures.
He said the estimate did not include economic costs. The quake forced some commercial establishments to close temporarily, he said.
Balido said more than 30,000 people were staying in 51 evacuation centers in Bohol and Cebu.
More than 1,000 families chose to stay with their relatives and friends, he said.
Electricity has been restored in only 67 percent of Bohol, he said.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) released P10 million in “additional standby fund” for the relief needs of the survivors.
Meanwhile, Maribojoc and Loon towns reported loss of power and lack of water.
Maribojoc Mayor Leoncio Evasco Jr. said water could not be pumped to homes because there was no electricity.
At least 25 percent of Bohol’s 47 towns were without electricity, but the Department of Energy gave the assurance that power would be restored in the entire province in three days.
Army Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, commander of the military’s Central Command based in Cebu, said the government’s response to the emergency was good.
“All agencies are helping each other. The objective is to bring the situation back to normal at the soonest possible time,” he said.
Deveraturda said Bohol would be needing relief goods and the evacuation centers would be needing tents as survivors did not want to return to their homes or go inside buildings for fear of aftershocks.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said, however, that aftershocks should not be s cause for panic.
Phivolcs said there would be weeks of aftershocks, but those smaller-magnitude temblors are normal after the main quake.
“[People] might be alarmed or overwhelmed by the number of aftershocks we record, but a lot of them are only detected by our instruments and they are too slight to be felt by people,” Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum said.
He said Phivolcs sent two teams to Bohol and Cebu to conduct an information campaign and assess hazards in the aftermath of Tuesday’s earthquake.—With reports from Jerry E. Esplanada and Jeannette I. Andrade in Manila; Carmel Loise Matus, Junnex Napallacan, Alex V. Pal and Doris C. Bongcac, Inquirer Visayas; and AFP