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Tremors bring fear, panic in Quezon

LUCENA CITY—No casualty or damage was received by disaster response officials in Quezon following a series of mild tremors or earthquake swarms that hit the province on Friday, however, the spread of false information caused residents to panic, the provincial disaster risk reduction and management council (DRRMC) said on Saturday.

“The spread of incoming tsunami, collapsed buildings and other wrong information after the earthquake caused panic, especially in several schools,” said Henry Buzar, Quezon DRRMC.

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“Worst enough authorities were the first to panic and some believed an incredible and unfounded rumor that a school building had collapsed and that there was an approaching tsunami,” he said.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) recorded at least 14 mild tremors starting dawn Friday and lasted until early afternoon.

READ: 5.2-magnitude quake hits Quezon

The strongest quake registered at 5.2 magnitude, with epicenter in Lopez town. The tremors were also felt in the towns facing Lamon Bay and in the towns in the Bondoc Peninsula district facing Tayabas Bay.

Buzar expressed disappointment that the earthquake drills the provincial government and DRRMC have been conducting as part of disaster response training had been forgotten when the quake struck.

“If the earthquake’s intensity was stronger or the ground shaking longer, many of us in Quezon will die. Why? Because despite holding quarterly earthquake drills, these exercises did not leave an imprint in our brain. We have not learned our lesson,” he said in a post on his Facebook page.

Aside from reports on panicking residents, Buzar also based his observation from comments on social media after the tremors. “I was awakened by the strong shaking,” “I watch as the chandelier move” were some of the comments he noted.

Buzar lamented the lack of comments that would reflect lessons learned from their regular earthquake drills, like those seeking cover under tables or people practicing the “duck, cover and hold.”

He cited the Don Emilio Salumbides Elementary School in Lopez town where the principal and teachers, along with their students, applied the basic evacuation and safety procedures during the earthquake.

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Buzar posted photos of the teachers and students in Lopez on his Facebook page.

He urged for the creation of school disaster risk reduction and response committees to address future incidents during school hours.

Buzar enumerated steps to follow in school during earthquake: “Once an earthquake strikes, proceed immediately to (duck, cover and hold) and wait until tremor subsides.”

“After the tremor, direct students to the designated evacuation area (distance must be at length with the height of the building). Wait there while school officials inspect the building for damage and cracks. If found okay, instruct students and teachers to return to their classrooms and resume classes,” Buzar said.

He stressed that if the tremor is registered at a magnitude of 6 and above, people should abandon the building and wait for the assessment of a government engineer.

Buzar said if parents and students get agitated and worried, school officials have the discretion to suspend classes. RAM

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TAGS: Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, DRRMC, Earthquake, fear, Panic, quezon, Tremors
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