Panic grips downtown Cebu

David Yu Santos

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Tsunami rumors trigger 'mass hysteria'

PRAYER. A resident of Cebu City holds a statue of the Sto Niño as she awaits word from the authorities on the supposed Tsunami threat. (Photo courtest of Charlie Saceda)

MANILA, Philippines – Panic-stricken residents in Cebu City converged at the Cebu provincial capitol and surrounding areas to flee from a supposed tsunami threat, that spread like wildfire shortly after a magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck Western Visayas on Monday afternoon.

Photojournalist Charlie Saceda said that people from “all walks of life” fled the coastal village of Pasil, which is located within Cebu City’s commercial center, minutes after the tremor occurred around 11.49 am, Monday, February 6.

Everyone was trying to flee Carbon area and downtown Cebu to move to higher ground, particularly in Guadalupe and the provincial capitol grounds,” Saceda told Rappler.

The panic was triggered by speculations over an incoming tsunami.

Some people began shouting that huge waves were coming,” Saceda said. “Without verifying the information, many others quickly believed it and panicked.”

A 29-year-old call center worker, Ron Anudin, was having lunch with 3 other friends at the Colon area when they heard screams. “Some people just kept screaming that we run away, as far as we could, since tsunami waves were supposedly coming,” Anudin said.

Anudin and his friends ran toward the Cebu provincial capitol along N Escario St, reaching the area that by then was already packed with people. They lost track of some of their companions.

It was a 5 to 6 kilometer fast-paced walk,” Anudin said, adding that “as much as possible, we avoided running so we won’t contribute to the panic.”

PANIC. Residents flee downtown Cebu City after rumors spread of a supposed tsunami threat on Monday (February 6) afternoon. (Photo courtesy of Charlie Saceda)

FLEE. Residents of Cebu City cross Escario Street to the Cebu provincial capitol after fleeing the downtown area amid tsunami rumors that spread on Monday afternoon. (Photo courtesy of Charlie Saceda)

Due to the chaotic situation, Saceda noted that there were no government personnel or agencies that were addressing the concerns of the residents. However, Saceda saw a number of police vehicles and firetrucks proceeding to the Pasil area. “Nobody was taking control of the situation,” Saceda said.

Traffic was at a standstill in major roads, as all types of vehicles tried to move out of the downtown area.

It was just like in the movies,” Anudin said. “People did not know what to do or where to go. We had to wait for the authorities to assure us that it is safe to move around.”’

The supposed tsunami threat turned out to be a “false alarm,” according to Saceda.

Saceda said the situation at the capitol area “eventually calmed down” around 3 pm. –

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