Fear, panic as aftershocks rock Leyte

Jazmin Bonifacio
Fear, panic as aftershocks rock Leyte
(2nd UPDATE) Rescuers have pulled out a total of 13 people from a collapsed commercial building in Kananga town, near the epicenter of the quake


MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Aftershocks rocked Leyte Friday morning, July 7, a day after a 6.5-magnitude earthquake that killed at least two people and injured over a hundred people.

Kananga Mayor Rowena Codilla, Police regional director Chief Superintendent Elmer Beltejar and other local officials on Friday convened a disaster assessment meeting in Kananga town, which is near the epicenter of the quake.

Rescuers pulled out 13 trapped people from the collapsed 3-story New Town Grocery in Kananga late Thursday, July 6, authorities said.

Authorities were still assessing the extent of the quake damage. “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,” Mina Marasigan, spokeswoman for the Philippine disaster-monitoring agency, told Agence France-Presse.

Manuel Garduque, an officer of the Kananga Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Office, told Rappler that as of early Friday, 37 people were reported injured in the town alone, one in critical condition.

The town reported one of two quake casualties in Leyte, identified as Gerry Mobilla, who was among those pulled out of New Town Grocery.

The Kananga mayor said municipal engineers will investigate the structural stability of the New Town Grocery, which also had a hotel and a function room.

As of Friday, the building’s owner had yet to inform authorities of the total number of people inside the building.

Panic

Kananga resident Ayen Quillo, who lived about 200 meters away from New Town Grocery, recalled her family’s experience when the strong quake shook Leyte on Thursday.

“Hindi kami makatayo at makalakad ng asawa ko dahil sa lakas ng pagyanig kahapon. Takot na takot kami. Pumasok kami sa ilalim ng kama na lang. Ilang minuto lang narinig namin malakas na kalabog at sigawan dahil sa nagcollapse na ang building,” she said, adding that it was their time first time to experience such a strong quake in the town.

(My husband and I could not stand nor walk because of the strong tremor yesterday. We were so scared. We just hid under the bed. After a while we heard a loud crash and loud shouts because the building had collapsed.)

Three provinces in the region remain without power while all schools are closed in Leyte as authorities assess the damage.

“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 Agence France-Presse.

In Ormoc City,  Mayor Richard Gomez told Rappler that those who were injured in the city numbered 151, 31 of whom needed hospital confinement. Ormoc reported the other quake fatality, an 18-year-old woman hit by falling debris.

Gomez said the quake damaged Ormoc airport, and triggered landslides in 4 villages – Barangays Capauhan, Tongonan, Capintan, and Gaas. 

He said clearing operations in the villages began on Friday, and there were search and rescue teams deployed around the city.

CRACK. The earthquake cracks the pavement at the Ormoc City Airport. Photo by Jazmin Bonifacio/Rappler Ormoc remained without power and electricity. Local airlines have cancelled flights the city

The earthquake also damaged houses and schools, and left cracks in highways, authorities said.

Power interruption

Geothermal plants in Leyte, its main source of power, were also hit according to the provincial government.

The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) said in its 10 am advisory on Friday that it has mobilized 6 line gangs to temporarily restore the Ormoc-Togonan 138kV Line.

“Another line gang was sent to Kananga Switchyard to assess possible ways of extending power from the Tabango Substation to Ormoc Substation,” the NGCP said.

It said that its Cebu-Leyte submarine cable and its Tabango Substation in Leyte continue to transmit power to LEYECO V, serving the municipalities of Tabango, San Isidro, and Villaba.

In its 3 pm advisory, the NGCP said that there is “complete” power loss in Bohol and Samar islands, Biliran, Southern Leyte, and parts of Leyte.

“Due to supply deficiency caused by the outage of power plants located in Leyte, customers in Cebu, Negros, and Panay may also suffer occasional power interruptions,” it added.

The Energy Development Corporation (EDC), which shut down its power plants in Leyte following the quake, said it was still evaluating the quake damage to its facilities. EDC plants provided 460 megawatts to the grid.

“In addition to the plants, there was visible damage to our marshalling stations where the power from our plants is sent for transmission to the grid,” EDC said in a statement on Friday.

“We have mobilized our team of contractors who will be working 24/7, as may be permitted by safety considerations given that aftershocks are still being felt, to have the marshalling stations back in operation in 3 to 5 days,” it added.

It said it had provided generator sets to the towns of Kananga and Ormoc in coordination with the local governments.

EDC also said that as of Friday noontime, all of its 582 employees and contractors on site have been accounted for, and only minor injuries were reported.

The quake hit at a depth of around 6 kilometers, the US Geological Survey said.

In February, a 6.5-magnitude quake killed 8 people and left more than 250 injured outside the southern city of Surigao.

The following month a 5.9-magnitude tremor killed one person there in March.

Before the Surigao quakes, the last fatal earthquake to hit the Southeast Asian nation was a 7.1-magnitude tremor that left more than 220 people dead and destroyed historic churches in the central islands in October 2013.

The Philippines lies on the so-called Ring of Fire, a vast Pacific Ocean region where many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. – With reports from Agence France-Presse, Marchel Espina/Rappler.com

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