Visayas quake death toll increasing

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Monday, February 6, 2012


CEBU CITY (9th Update, 9:56 p.m.) -- The death toll from a series of earthquakes that struck Visayas Monday continues to increase with more and more bodies retrieved from buildings that collapsed and houses buried by landslides in Negros island.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported seven fatalities, but reports from the Philippine Army showed 43 people confirmed dead.

Some of the fatalities were recorded in Negros Oriental province. One of those confirmed dead was nine-year-old Bernadette Raidan, who was pinned down by a collapsed wall in Matuog Elementary School in Tayasan.

Another fatality, 11-year-old Anafe Estrabella, died after she was hit by a collapsed wall in a chapel in Jimalalud. The other victims remain unidentified.

The NDRRMC reported at least 12 people injured and several others missing, but their identities have yet to be known by authorities.


The government ordered local officials and disaster agencies to validate incident reports, evaluate damage to infrastructure and property, and assist the victims.

The 6.9-magnitude earthquake that struck Negros and Cebu islands at 11:49 a.m. also wiped out five cottages owned by Comendador Beach Resort in La Libertad, Negros Oriental.

It remains to be seen, however, if the cottages were swallowed by advancing waters as a result of the earthquake, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said.

A three-storey Laturnas Building in the same municipality also collapsed, but the Philippine National Police is still trying to verify if someone died or got injured due to the incident.


Over 150 aftershocks were recorded by state seismologists hours after the 6.9-magnitude quake hit; the latest of which occurred around 8:29 p.m. 17 kilometers northwest of the epicenter, Tayasan, Negros Oriental.

The latest aftershock was felt at Intensity IV in Sibulan, Negros Occidental and Iloilo City; Intensity III in Dipolog City; Sipalay, Negros Occidental; Guimaras; Tagbilaran City; Cebu City; Dumarao and Dumanlag, Capiz; and Oton, Iloilo; and Intensity II in San Jose de Buenavista, Antique; and Bugo, Cagayan de Oro City.

The quake Monday prompted local officials to suspend classes and government work, while residents in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental suffered a blackout due to tripped power lines.

In Cebu City, panic enveloped the city due to tsunami scare brought by reports of rising seawater after the 6.9-magnitude earthquake. Elsewhere along the coast, people rushed out of schools, malls and offices.

Sun.Star traced the reports on the rise of seawater in the coastal village of Ermita in Cebu City. Alejandro Galledo of Barangay Ermita said seawaters rose after a fast-craft passed by the area.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) lowered the tsunami alert at 2:30 p.m. after the threat of one-meter waves has dissipated.

"There is no more threat of unusual waves. There was no evacuation at alert level 2 and what was advised was for people to stay away from the shoreline and for people with houses near the coast to be watchful," Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum told Sun.Star.

Solidum said, however, that weaker quakes are expected to continue until next week.

Photos courtesy of Dennis Ortega, Mark John Buenconsejo, Khristianie Lauta Cornelio, Fred Baa, Lloyd Anthony Garcia and Iloilo-PIO

As of this posting, several residents who earlier evacuated to higher grounds following the tsunami warning refused to go home despite the lifting of the alert Monday afternoon.

Tayasan police officer Alfred Vicente Silvosa told The Associated Press by phone that aftershocks were preventing people from returning to their homes.

"We are outside, at the town plaza. We cannot inspect buildings yet because it's dangerous," Silvosa said. "I felt the building shaking, so I rushed out of the building. Our computers, shelves, plates, the cupboards, water dispenser all fell."

Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) commandant Vice Admiral Edmund Tan, however, directed his units to allow any ships and other water crafts to sail or to venture out to sea after the tsunami alert was lifted.

"However, PCG search and rescue units and deployable response groups (DRG) in the respective units are still on full alert for possible deployment in case of another strong earthquake,” Coast Guard public affairs chief Lieutenant Commander Algier Ricafrente said in a text message.

Immediately after a series of earthquakes jolted parts of Visayas and Mindanao, Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Enrique Ona directed the agency’s field health units from the affected provinces to quickly respond to the situation.

Ona advised the public to ensure safety by staying away from structures that have been damaged or compromised due to the magnitude of the quake and to seek immediate medical attention for injuries.

For its part, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said quick response teams have been alerted to assist local government units in assessing the impact of Monday’s shaking.

“Rest assured that concerned DSWD regional offices have enough standby funds and supplies, ready for distribution to affected local government units,” Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman said.

The Philippines sits on the “Pacific Ring of Fire” where continental plates meet, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. About 20 earthquakes hit the country everyday but only a few are felt. (Virgil Lopez/AP/Sunnex)

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