Surigao quake survivors refuse to go home
SURIGAO CITY—Hundreds of residents in this city are staying in makeshift tents at the Surigao del Norte provincial capitol grounds as aftershocks continue four days after a 6.7-magnitude earthquake hit this city and nearby areas.
Residents hesitate to return to their villages due to fears of tsunami striking the city. At least 140 aftershocks were recorded by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) as of Tuesday afternoon.
The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said damage to property and infrastructure reached P665 million. At least eight people died while more than 200 others were injured in the Feb. 10 earthquake.
Aftershocks occurred almost every hour, the strongest of which occurred at 4 a.m. on Tuesday, registering a magnitude of 4.9, Phivolcs said.
Resident Mila Palacio, 62, has to walk 3 kilometers every night with her two grandchildren to Barangay Lipata to ensure their safety.
Lipata sits on a hill overlooking the city and the sea that scares coastal dwellers like Palacio, despite assurances from local officials that no tsunami was imminent.
“Who can predict natural calamities?” Palacio asked. “You don’t really want to be left alone while your neighbors have already left,” she said.
On Monday, Phivolcs chief Renato Solidum dismissed rumors of tsunami or of another strong earthquake hitting Surigao.
“I am asking people not to spread these speculations,” Solidum said.
Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) continued to provide assistance to residents of this city and other quake-stricken areas of Surigao del Norte.
“We never want those who need help to wait for it,” Taguiwalo said.
She said social workers were bringing drinking water in areas where water supply had been cut after the quake damaged distribution lines.
President Duterte’s spokesperson, Ernesto Abella, said aid distribution was initially hampered by “inadequate system.”
Mina Marasigan, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council spokesperson, said water supply was restored in all earthquake-hit areas, except Mainit and San Francisco towns, all in Surigao del Norte.
Marasigan said engineers were inspecting buildings and other structures damaged by the earthquake to ensure their safety.
Among the eight people killed by the tremor, 4-year-old JM Monato Ariar was asleep when the concrete wall of their house in Barangay Aton collapsed and hit him.
For survivors, the task of rebuilding their homes seems daunting.
Warlito Castillo, 52, a jeepney driver, said his family of seven had nowhere else to go after he was told that his house would have to be demolished. He said he did not have the money to build even a nipa hut.
Allona Amarillo, whose husband Danilo had spent P1.3 million to build a two-story home, said their house’s foundation was damaged by the quake.
San Francisco Vice Mayor Val Pinat said the local government needed at least P150 million to rebuild the Anao-aon bridge linking San Francisco and Surigao City.
He said Public Works Secretary Mark Villar had committed P100 million to fund the bridge construction.
In Bacolod City, Bishop Patricio Buzon called on the faithful to help Surigao.
Buzon issued a circular letter to all parishes in the Diocese of Bacolod to take a second collection during Sunday’s Mass to help earthquake survivors.
He said the Diocese of Bacolod, along with its prayers, is also allocating assistance from its Alay Kapwa and Diocesan Solidarity funds for Surigao.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is also extending aid in the form of water sanitation and hygiene assistance, and counseling for earthquake survivors.
CBCP will house its operations in the Cathedral of San Nicholas of Tolentino in Surigao City. —DANILO ADORADOR III, CHRIS PANGANIBAN, JULIE M. AURELIO, CARLA P. GOMEZ, MARLON RAMOS, CYNTHIA D. BALANA AND DONNA Z. PAZZIBUGAN
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