SURIGAO CITY—President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday promised to release P2 billion in relief for victims of the powerful Feb. 10 earthquake in this city and neighboring towns.
At least six people were killed and more than 100 were being treated in hospitals after the magnitude 6.7 earthquake damaged buildings and houses, toppled power lines, and sent billboards crashing to the ground.
Malls such as the Parkway Mall and Gaisano Capital were closed to the public after portions of their buildings collapsed. Hotels such as the Tavern also suffered damage, as did the newly constructed St. Paul University Hospital.
The female ward of the Caraga Regional Hospital collapsed, and more than 1,000 homes across the city were damaged.
The Surigao State College of Technology was shut down after its top portion collapsed, while the perimeter wall of the Mariano Memorial Elementary school also crumbled.
Roads along the national highway bore signs of rupture.
Water and electricity were still not back in many parts of the city, and people were lining up along the streets for water delivery by volunteer organizations.
Twelve schools suffered damage to their buildings in Surigao City and Surigao del Norte and classes remained suspended.
The municipalities of Malimuno and San Francisco were still isolated due to badly damaged bridges.
President Duterte on Sunday apologized for the delay in the government’s response to victims of the quake.
“Actually, when we arrived here, our airplane could not land directly here in Surigao [because of the damaged runway] and carry the relief here from Manila, so I had to take a helicopter from Butuan going here,” the President said.
“I am very sorry for what happened here, I really wanted to go as early as yesterday and see immediately the damage… here,” he added.
Duterte told the crowds at the City Gymnasium that the aid will be consist of livelihood programs, infrastructure and housing for the displaced.
Duterte also told the crowd that he just released P1 billion for medicines,
“This is for Filipinos who cannot afford to buy medicines, just go to DSWD,” Duterte said, referring to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, and Education Secretary Lenora Briones arrived here early and had a closed door meeting at the city hall with Mayor Ernesto Matugas.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno also came with President Duterte.
Aside from the distribution of relief, the President said the government would extend financial assistance to the families who lost a member during the quake.
He also ordered Villar to clear all the roads affected by the earthquake to ensure the smooth deliver of relief.
He also ordered the restoration of the power in the city.
“I want power restored in Surigao City and Surigao Del Norte tonight,” he said.
Duterte offered his condolences to the families who lost loved ones in the earthquake, but said he was grateful that the damage was not much worse.
He recounted that in the wake of Super Typhoon “Yolanda” in November 2013, no one could drive a vehicle through the streets of Tacloban because of the dead bodies.
“Let’s give thanks to God, as I was looking into the buildings, there is not much damage,” Duterte said,
He promised to return soon to Surigao so he could talk longer with the people.
Surigao City Information Officer Annette Villaces said the city has been placed under a state of calamity.
“We have 20 percent of the population affected,” she said.
Villaces said that they need engineers, medical experts and ambulances to transfer patients between hospitals.
The city government is also in need of portable water purifiers, portable toilets, tents with 10 person capacity, hydraulic tools, and tankers for water distribution.
Tom Olivares of CTP Construction and Mining Corp. said his 18-man team with three water tankers is delivering water to different barangays across the city.
Olivares said that they are also bringing a portable water purifier.
Olivares said that they would distribute water as long as they are needed.
Thousands of residents sought refuge on the streets as aftershocks hit the region Sunday, two days after the powerful quake.
People who had fled their damaged homes wrapped themselves in blankets and sacks for a second night as they slept side-by-side on the pavement Saturday, a photographer for the Agence-France Pressse at the scene said.
The state seismology office recorded 130 weaker quakes in Surigao, a city of 152,000 people, and in the predominantly agricultural region around it since the quake struck, though there were no additional reports of casualties or damage.
“The people are terrified about the aftershocks,” Romina Marasigan, spokeswoman for the government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council told reporters.
“This was the first time Surigao had suffered a quake this strong. The previous one occurred in the 1800s,” President Duterte’s spokesman Martin Andanar, a native of the region, said over government radio.
Duterte flew to the region on Sunday to inspect the response effort, which officials said has shifted to relief and rehabilitation after the last of the dead and injured were pulled from the rubble.
He was accompanied by a military transport plane loaded with generator sets, solar lamps, high-energy biscuits, mosquito nets and blankets for the displaced residents, Marasigan said.
Early on Sunday, long lines of people carrying pails and jugs queued for water rations supplied by fire trucks after the quake damaged pipelines and cut off tap water supply.
“We have no water. We are just relying on water cascading from the mountains,” said one of the residents lined up waiting to fill his container from water trickling from a mountain slope in Barangay Luna a few kilometers outside the city.
The supply of bottled water dwindled in groceries.
The Surigao Metropolitan Water District has begun repairing damage pipelines to restore the distribution of potable water, even as health officials warned residents of potential diseases from contaminated water from wells and open pit sources.
“We’re still being hit by aftershocks, and as of now we do not have tap water supply. The people are suffering,” provincial information officer Mary Escalante told ABS-CBN television in an interview.
“Buildings that suffered structural damage have been closed,” she said, adding some schools and gyms that were meant to serve as evacuation centers were among those damaged by the quake.
The quake also damaged bridges and roads and knocked out the power supply, though electricity was restored in most of Surigao on Saturday.
The Department of Energy declared a price freeze for liquified petroleum gas and kerosene products in Surigao City, which would last for 15 days, following the magnitude 6.7 earthquake that hit the city and nearby areas.
Mining firms in the Caraga fegion have sent emergency response teams to Surigao City, the area hardest hit by the magnitude 6.7 quake that struck Friday night.
Companies that have sent emergency teams are Marcventures Mining and Development Corp., Hinatuan Mining Corp., Taganito Mining Corp., CTP Mining and Construction, and Adnama Mining Corp., supported by the Caraga Chamber of Mines and in coordination with the Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association.
Greenstone Resources Corp. brought fire trucks and ambulances, as well civil engineers to help in assessing the integrity of buildings in the city. Silangan Mindanao Mining has also deployed fire trucks and first aid teams, while the Platinum Group Metals Corp. has flown drones to help in the real-time assessment of the earthquake damage.
An average of five earthquakes, most of them undetectable except through instruments, hit daily across the Philippines, which lies on the so-called Ring of Fire, a vast Pacific Ocean region where many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.
The last lethal quake that hit the country measured 7.1-magnitude. It left over 220 people dead and destroyed historic churches when it struck the central islands in October 2013. With Francisco Tuyay, Alena Mae Flores, AFP, PNA
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