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BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – Classes at Victorias City’s Negros Occidental National Science High School (NONSHS) will resume on Tuesday, August 30, but students will be assigned new accommodations until government agencies unravel the mystery behind earth tremors that caused cracks in two buildings on August 24 and 25.
Victorias Mayor Javi Benitez asked the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB)-Region 6 to inspect the school site and assess the structural soundness of facilities hosting more than 600 students.
He also asked MGB regional director Raul Laput on Friday, August 26, for help in determining the cause of two days of tremors that prompted cancellation of classes.
Benitez likewise requested the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to inspect the affected school buildings to determine safety levels of 24 classrooms that showed visible cracks after the tremors.
The mayor’s letter to the MGB noted “damage which appears to be worrisome, if not significant or substantial.”
A source from the school, who asked not to be named, said the order to vacate two school buildings was due to “observed new cracks.” At least one of the buildings has three floors of classrooms.
They have already reassigned students to vacant rooms that show no cracks, the source said.
The city schools division disaster risk reduction and management office has approved holding face-to-class starting August 30, but said if tremors persist it would consider recommending an indefinite suspension of classes.
Residents of Victorias worry about the source of the mysterious tremors reported in at least two barangays, 10 and 14.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) said it monitored no earthquake in the area in those days. The agency reported a magnitude 2.3 earthquake hit Victorias at 11:57 pm on August 9.
The mayor has asked the national office of PHIVOLCS to check if a new fault line has cropped up in the province or if the dormant Mt. Mandalagan has become active.
The government agency’s website describes the stratovolcano as “potentially active”. There is no record of its last eruption.
The global volcanism program of the Smithsonian Museum National Museum of Natural history notes, “the Mandalagan volcanic complex on northern Negros Island contains a vigorous solfataric area at a highly altered domed structure. The complex consists of seven volcanic centers, including at least five craters and/or calderas up to 2 km in diameter. One solfataric area emits a high-temperature (106 degrees Celsius) plume to 30 m height with a roaring noise like a high-pressure geothermal borehole. The age of the most recent eruptive activity, which produced a thin basaltic lava flow, is not known.”
The mountain’s Tinagong Dagat caldera, popular with hikers, floods during the wet season.
Two barangays, numbers 10 and 14, felt the tremors, the mayor’s office said.
The NONSHS source told Rappler classes were ongoing when they felt the quake past 2 pm on Wednesday, August 24.
More than 600 students were unharmed after teachers and the school staff assisted them to evacuate from classrooms to the designated open area.
The students were calm and did not panic, the source said, adding that the earthquake drills conducted by the Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (DRRMO) at the school helped.
“There was very good coordination from the school DRRM team and student government officers to assist the students quickly and calmly to the evacuation area until the schools division DRRM team arrived to double check the students and ensure everyone’s safety,” the source added.
The students were sent home that afternoon after another quake was felt a few minutes later, the source also said.
The source said the same protocols will be followed if new tremors occur. – Rappler.com