Marcos visits quake-hit region, orders speedy recovery efforts

BenarNews staff
2022.07.28
Manila
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Marcos visits quake-hit region, orders speedy recovery efforts President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (right) visits a patient evacuated to the grounds of a hospital in Bangued town, Abra province, a day after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck the northern Philippines, July 28, 2022.
AFP/Courtesy of Irelee Beralde

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. flew on Thursday to the northern Philippine region ravaged by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake and ordered officials to speed up recovery efforts, as many areas were still without electricity, safe drinking water and passable roads.

Relief officials struggled to reach remote sections cut off by landslides and fallen debris in the earthquake’s wake. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said casualty figures remained low, as only five people had been confirmed dead.

Dozens more were injured, many by falling debris, when the quake struck in Abra, a province in the north of the main Philippine island of Luzon, on Wednesday. 

Marcos arrived in the province early Thursday where he led efforts to distribute relief goods, and met with local officials who briefed him on the extent of the damage. Marcos’ social welfare secretary, Erwin Tulfo, traveled to Abra on Wednesday. 

“I am assuring you, with Secretary Tulfo, that everything that you need is here in the evacuation center,” Marcos told residents who were staying in modular tents at a plaza. 

The aftereffects of the quake “will not add to your hardships,” he said.

The president, who hails from the far north of Luzon island, also thanked people for supporting him in the May 9 general election.

“Now, it’s my turn to help you,” he said, as he toured a hospital where many of the more than 100 injured people received medical aid. 

“I have asked that all departments file their reports so we can open roads that are still closed and bring back electricity,” he said. 

Marcos also met with local government officials.

“National government agencies, please coordinate closely with the local government so we can maximize our assets. You plan everything together. You listen to the local governments because they are the ones who have the fundamental responsibility to bring the aid to the people,” Marcos said during the meeting.  

He said restoring the water supply was a top priority along with providing financial aid to those left homeless or evacuated.

“Even just a little,” Marcos said.

The quake affected about 13,000 people, though fewer than 1,000 were in evacuation centers because many had been advised to stay put as officials inspected their homes. 

The earthquake struck at a shallow depth of 25 km (15 miles) near the town of Lagangilang, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology. About 800 aftershocks with magnitudes ranging from 1.5 to 5.4 have been recorded since Wednesday.

On Thursday, Renato Solidum, the government’s chief seismologist, advised residents to not return to their homes until the structures were declared safe.

“We expect aftershocks to continue for several weeks, but there will be more in the first three days and hopefully, it will decrease,” Solidum said. “But people should be ready to respond properly during aftershocks because aftershocks are still strong.”

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A woman prepares her modular tent after evacuating from her home in the aftermath of an earthquake in Bangued, Abra province, Philippines, July 28, 2022. [Lisa Marie David/Reuters]

‘Thankful my family is safe’ 

In a Facebook post, Sei Agaid, an earthquake survivor, said she phoned her family who had slept outside their house for safety.

“Earthquake is on and off. Much of our furniture was destroyed. But I am thankful my family is safe,” Agaid said.  

In Ilocos Sur province, Gov. Jeremias Singson told a local radio station that clearing operations were ongoing but the province still had no electricity.

“Our tourism industry and small business owners were really affected,” Singson said, noting that 460 buildings in the province had been affected, including Bantay Bell Tower in Vigan City that partially crumbled during the earthquake. 

The city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and tourist destination, features centuries-old structures from the Spanish colonial period that were damaged as well. 

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Ricardo Jalad, executive director of the disaster response agency, said rescuers were busy clearing areas of debris and restoring power.

“Our priority now is life-saving distribution of assistance to our countrymen who were displaced,” said Jalad, who also serves as administrator of the Office of Civil Defense.

Jalad said many roads, mostly in the mountainous Cordillera Administrative Region, remained closed as of Thursday while an “immediate road clearing” operation is ongoing.

Military aircraft are to be used to deliver supplies in areas where roads are closed to vehicles, he said, noting that at least 22 of the region’s roads were impassable. 

In Manila, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said, based on initial assessments, about four northern provinces were affected. Water, power and communication lines seem to be functioning in some of the affected areas. 

“The OCHA is liaising with national authorities as well as humanitarian partners with local presence on the ground to determine the impact of the earthquake,” the U.N. agency said in a statement. 

The Philippines sits on the so-called Pacific Rim of Fire, where earthquakes are frequent including some that are devastating. More than 15 destructive quakes have hit the Southeast Asian nation the past 50 years – with four major seismic events of magnitudes greater than 6.5 occurring in November and December 2019 alone, according to experts. 

A 7.7-magnitude quake struck Luzon in July 1990, leaving more than 1,600 dead. Many of those who died were trapped inside a hotel that collapsed in the northern city of Baguio.

Jojo Riñoza and Luis Liwanag in Manila and Jeoffrey Maitem in Davao city, Philippines, contributed to this report.

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