by Nestor Abrematea, AFP, and AP
Close to 300 aftershocks sent residents of Leyte into panic a day after a 6.5-magnitude earthquake killed three people and injured at least 72 others, officials said.
Rescuers pulled out 13 trapped people from a collapsed commercial building late Thursday in Kananga, Leyte, near the epicenter of the quake, local officials said.
Leyte, Samar, and Bohol remain without power while all schools are closed in Leyte as authorities assess the damage. Some areas in Cebu, Negros, and the Panay provinces were expected to experience occasional power interruptions.
“Some residents ran out of their homes when they felt aftershocks. Some had panicked but many stayed calm because we just had an earthquake drill and they know what to do in times of disaster,” Office of Civil Defense regional spokesperson Pebbles Lluz told AFP.
Of the three fatalities, two were from Kananga and one from Ormoc City.
Kananga Municipal Disaster and Risk Reduction chief Manuel Garduque said the two fatalities in the town were attending a seminar at a three-story building when it collapsed. One was already dead when retrieved from the rubbles of the building, while the other one was still alive and taken to the hospital, where the victim died later.
Six people were rescued from the collapsed building. They were identified as Marian Suparales, 42, of Barangay Hiluctugan, Kananga; Jevy Omulon, 38; Aina Nicole Geraldez, 7; Sancho Geraldez, 4; all from Barangay Rizal, Kananga; Edgar Cabahug of Jaro, Leyte; and Irene Flores, of Real Street, Poblacion, Kananga.
The third earthquake fatality was Editha Rosales, 18, who was killed when she was hit by debris after landslide hit her house, Ormoc City police chief Senior Superintendent Ramil Ramirez said.
More than 100 were injured in the area, including many who were “traumatized and hysterical,” Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez said.
Chief Superintendent Elmer C. Beltejar, Eastern Visayas police regional director, inspected the collapsed building and directed Senior Superintendent Norberto Tuazon, Leyte police director, to ensure peace and order in Kananga.
Beltejar deployed policemen around the collapsed building to ensure that no looting will take place.
Maj. Gen. Raul Farnacio, an army commander in the area, said local officials in outlying villages of Kananga and Ormoc on Friday reported at least four people missing in landslides. Soldiers and army engineers have been dispatched to the villages, where some roads are reportedly not passable to vehicles, he added.
Delia Vilbar, the treasurer of Ormoc, said she was attending a meeting on the second floor of City Hall when the earthquake struck.
“It was very strong, and the building was shaking,” she said. “I sat down while others in the room went under the table.”
When she went outside to the street, she saw people crying and embracing each other, she said.
The earthquake also damaged houses and schools, left cracks in highways and caused landslides, authorities said.
A big chunk of Eastern Visayas was without electricity because geothermal power plants in Jaro, Leyte, sustained damage, said Romina Marasigan, spokeswoman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council. She said some houses in upland villages, mostly made of light materials, have been totally damaged.
The EDC, owner of the power plants, said in a statement that it is providing generator sets to Kananga and Ormoc City in coordination with their respective local government units.
“For now, all of the plants are shut down and we are evaluating the damage. We will have a more detailed assessment as more information becomes available,” EDC said in a statement.
Local airlines have meanwhile cancelled flights to Ormoc City on Leyte island.
“The center of the earthquake was in mountainous villages so we will only get a clearer picture of the impact once we reach these areas,” Marasigan said.
CEBU MINING SITES MONITORED
In Cebu, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) continues to monitor the whole province following a magnitude 6.5 earthquake.
Cebu City felt the tremor at Intensity 5; Intensity 3 in cities of Bogo and Talisay; and Intensity 2 in Lapu-Lapu City.
PDRRMO Chief Baltazar Tribunalo, in a text message, said “no reports of damage and injuries” in Cebu province have been recorded, as of this writing.
Tribunalo, however, added that the disaster office is conducting random checks at various locations to see if there are cracks in upland areas that might be “potentials for landslides.” Among these places are the Carmen Copper Corporation and the Malubog dam in Toledo city, southwest of Cebu.
Toledo City is home to a number of vast mining pits in the entire province.
ROADS, BRIDGES DAMAGED
Meanwhile, Marasigan said several road sections and bridges sustained cracks due to the earthquake.
Based on the report from the Leyte 3rd District Engineering Office (DEO), she said the Campokpok Bridge, in Calubian-San Isidro-Tabango-Villaba Palompon Road and the Tabango-Catmon-La Fortuna-Manlawan-Gimarco Road sustained cracks but remain passable.
On the other hand, the Leyte 4th DEO said the Palo-Carigara-Ormoc Road, Kinuhanga Bridge along Palompon-Isabel-Merida-Ormoc Road and Pagsangaan Bridge along Palompon-Isabel-Merida-Ormoc Road likewise sustained cracks.
Marasigan said they are currently conducting Rapid Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis to determine if residents affected by the earthquake would need aid or help from the government.
She said so far local government units are the ones assisting those affected by the earthquake.
Marasigan said based on the reports of the local Disaster Risk Reduction Management (DRRM) councils in Leyte, Ormoc City sustained the most damage as they suffered the brunt of the tremor.
In the agriculture sector, Department of Agriculture (DA) Chief for Field Programs Operational Planning Division Christopher Morales said in a text message that the agency is now validating the damage incurred from the magnitude 6.5 earthquake.
In a phone interview, National Irrigation Administration (NIA) spokesperson Pilipina Bermudez said that based on initial estimates, the earthquake had so far destroyed three irrigation systems.
Bermudez said the cost of the earthquake’s damage to the region’s irrigation system is worth P15 million but it could significantly rise in the next few days.
Considered as one of the country’s top rice-producing provinces, Leyte has more than 80,000 hectares of rice land, with farmers’ combined revenues amounting to P4 billion per cropping season.
For this year, the government is targeting to produce 285,616 metric tons (MT) of rice from the region alone, higher than the 226,731 MT targeted last year.
U-Nichols A. Manalo, officer-in-charge of the DA Regional Field Office 8, said the earthquake had so far caused “no significant damages in agriculture sector and agriculture facilities”
“Food prices are stable because roads and highways from Tacloban to Ormoc and vice versa are passable,” he added.
State-run grains agency National Food Authority (NFA) assured that there is sufficient rice supply in Eastern Visayas.
NFA Administrator Jason Aquino said the agency’s rice inventory in the region is currently equivalent to 13 days of the daily rice consumption requirement.
“The NFA in Region 08 has at least 399,900 bags, or 19,994 metric tons (MT) of rice pre-positioned in all its warehouses in the region,” Aquino said. (With reports from Francis T. Wakefield, Chito A. Chavez, Mars W. Mosqueda, Kier Edison C. Belleza, and Madelaine B. Miraflor)
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