(UPDATED) DEPARTMENT of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benhur Abalos Jr. said four individuals were killed, while 60 others were wounded following the magnitude 7 earthquake that hit the province of Abra Wednesday morning, July 27, 2022.

In his report to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. during a press briefing in Malacañang, Abalos said of the four fatalities, three were from Benguet, while the other was from Abra.

Of the injured persons, 44 were from Abra.

Abalos said 6,756 barangays in Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and Cordillera have been affected by the earthquake.

In the Cordillera region, particularly Abra, he said 29 municipal roads, three bridges and 173 buildings, both private and government, were reported damaged.

About 173 landslide incidents were recorded in the affected regions, of which 31 were in Abra.

Marcos said several areas in Abra and Benguet, including major roads, particularly those in Baguio City like the Kennon Road have been rendered impassable. He said only one lane is passable along Marcos Highway.

Major earthquake

For his part, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology Director Renato Solidum said the tremor, which struck at 8:43 a.m., was “shallow,” with a depth of 17 kilometers.

The epicenter was located at three kilometers northwest of Tayum, Abra.

“Because of the magnitude of the earthquake, we consider it a major earthquake. Anything greater than 7 (magnitude) is a major earthquake and we would expect significant effects of this event,” he said during the press briefing.

“This would be manifested to damage to houses and buildings and landslides especially in the mountainous regions,” he added.

Solidum urged local government units to conduct inspection for possible damage to buildings and houses. He said the damaged structures must only be used once they are declared fit.

He said landslide-prone areas must be avoided.

Solidum said Vigan in Ilocos Sur incurred significant damage due to its geographical location.

“Because the foundation of the city is essentially sandy because of the big river that would flood the area from time to time, so there was uplification of the shaking and many of the churches and historical buildings were damaged,” he said.

He added that although there were unusual waves in the coastal areas of La Union and Ilocos, there was no tsunami.

“A tsunami would be very high waves because of the uplift of the ocean floor due to an earthquake in the ocean,” said Solidum.

“What happened was there was shaking of the island and the coastal water was shaken, so there were minor seawater oscillations. Some of the waters actually entered some of the river,” he added.

Assistance

Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Erwin Tulfo went to Abra to oversee the relief operations for the affected residents.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said at least P200 million worth of quick response funds are available for assistance to the affected local government units.

Department of National Defense officer-in-charge retired general Jose Faustino Jr. said they have already issued a directive to their officers in the affected regions for the activation of response action.

He said the Armed Forces of the (AFP) has prepositioned mobilization assets in Northern Luzon.

Faustino said the rapid assessment is ongoing to identify the status of roads and bridges, critical lifelines and infrastructure, houses and the total affected population and their immediate needs.

Abalos said security forces from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Bureau of Fire Protection are taking part in the conduct of clearing and relief operations in the affected areas.

Marcos said they are also working to revive communication lines in the affected areas, with emphasis on its importance during such situations.

He said Globe Telecom already committed to establish emergency cell sites in the area, while they already requested for Smart Communications to do the same.

Marcos said it is not yet necessary to declare a state of national calamity following the earthquake.

He said automatically, a state of calamity is activated when three or more regions were affected.

“I don’t think it’s necessary right now to declare a national emergency; however, depending on the info, baka mangyari yun, I hope not sana limited nalang sa Abra,” he said. (SunStar Philippines)