Terrified survivors spend nights under the stars

SURIGAO CITY—For the third night now, Antonio Tirol brought his family from their home in Boulevard, Barangay Taft to the Surigao del Norte capitol grounds to spend the night under the stars.

Tirol and his family along with 136 other families—close to 1,000 people—have been coming here to sleep since the magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck Friday night, fearful of another temblor.

Since Friday, 130 aftershocks hit the city, accentuating the fear of another strong quake.

On Sunday, as thousand of residents gathered around the city gymnasium, two aftershocks hit just minutes apart, sending people scampering for open ground.

Wrapping themselves in blankets and sleeping on plastic mats with just a makeshift roof made of plastic sacks, the Tirols squeezed themselves together in a space smaller than four square meters.

Antonio narrated that on the night of the earthquake, his family was sleeping when the ground shook.

“At first, it is slow, then it got faster. It felt like forever,”Antonio said.

Antonio’s wife got up when something came crashing through their roof. The balusters from their neighbors’ house on the third floor fell onto her back as she tried to cover their children.

“Until now, she still feels the pain. We have no money for checkups,” Antonio said as he was setting up their makeshift tent.

Just a block away from the Tirols, Marilou Buenaflor’s home was also severely damaged.

Buenaflor’s house tilted, jamming the door so that they had to get out through the windows.

The Boulevard, the stretch of road along the coast where Dinagat Island-bound pumpboats dock, was also damaged.

Cracks showed on the concrete pier, and concrete benches were broken. The Hotel Tavern, which lies at the northeastern end, was also heavily damaged.

WOEFUL VICTIMS. Victims of the 6.7 shock which rumbled underneath Surigao del Norte on Friday night, who make a sorrowful sight under the sky or in a convention center, are in need of potable water and shelter materials, according to a spokesperson of the National Disaster Relief and Rehabilitation Center.  Lance Baconguis
Buenaflor said half of the floor of her house was lifted, then came crashing down. The walls were cracked, and the kitchen sink collapsed into their septic tank.

A few kilometers south from Boulevard, in Barangay Washington, Anita Cebuano also took her five children with her to sleep at the capitol.

They live in a community near the river. Anita’s nephew Joshua Iligan said the land where some houses were built cracked open, splitting houses.

Anita’s neighbor Marjorie Liwanan said that when the ground started shaking, the land split, water pipes burst open.

“Water burst up, showering us. There was no power, it was dark, that is why we are afraid that when it will strike again, we will be hit in darkness. That is scary,” Liwanan said.

Dandy Paraguya from Barangay Mabua also brought his entire family.

“We have no more house, it collapsed last Friday,” Paraguya said as he showed journalists photos of his home, with walls collapsed.

The stories they told were similar.

They would return home during the day, pick up whatever is left and repair what they can, and replace what needs replacement.

The Philippine Red Cross Surigao City chapter has provided tents for the displaced but that is not enough.

People came bringing just sleeping mats and blankets.

Fear for another quake can be seen in their eyes. 

“It is easier to sleep here at night than sleep in our houses,” Raul Subiri said.

Subiri brought his aging and sickly mother-in-law,who sleeps on a sofa they brought for her.

Subiri said the stilt bridge leading to their house on the river had been damaged. 

“What if we sleep there and the ground moves again? We would plunge into the water,” Subiri said.

Fear was heightened by social media posts warning of a stronger quake.

“Where will we go if that happens?” one resident asked, after seeing such a warning on Facebook.

Fear and trauma are the common denominators of the people here that the government is trying to help.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development reported that as of Feb.12, there were 1,034 families affected, or 5,170 persons in 54 barangays.

The quake destroyed 155 houses and damaged 879 others.

The city government has declared a state of calamity, stating that 20 percent of the city’s population of 154,137 was affected by the earthquake.

The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office of Surigao del Norte on Monday released the initial damage assessment from Friday’s quake.

Maryjul Escalante, Surigao del Norte Provincial Information officer, said that based on the report submitted by the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, as of Monday, they recorded a total damage of P665.720 million.

“We are expecting that the figure could rise as more updates are being received now,” Escalante said.

Escalante said that Gov. Sol Matugas has ordered all provincial government employees to support the recovery efforts.

The Department of Education on Monday said schools suffered P7.6 million in damage due to the quake.

Surigao City remains the most affected in the province, with seven reported deaths.

The PDRRMO identified the fatalities from this city as Robert Eludo, JM Ariar, Lito Wilson, Lorenzo Deguino, Roda Justina Taganahan, Jenelyn Ebale and Rommel Tano.

Wenefreda Aragon Bernal is the lone fatality outside of Surigao City.

All of the fatalities suffered blunt force trauma to the head with the exception of Taganahan, who suffered a heart attack during the quake.

The provincial government listed 550 families or 2,750 individuals as affected by the earthquake.

Provincial health officer Dr. Maria Isabel Makinano said that they are trying to prevent the spread of diseases. 

“We know that post disaster, there is always a rise in diseases especially those that are water-borne like diarrhea and amoebiasis,” Makinano said.

The lack of safe drinking water was the biggest challenge, she said.

The Surigao Metropolitan Water District reported P1.7 million worth of damaged pipelines.

Makinano said they are also needing portable toilets, tents, mobile water purification systems and water tankers.

The provincial capitol where hundreds of resident shelter at night doesn’t have running water.

“Even though we opened all our toilets to the evacuees, there is no running water and that could lead to diseases,” Makinano said.

Makinano also said that she is working closely with epidemiologist Dr. Dave Mendoza from the Department of Health in Region 10 along with the Cagayan de Oro’s Emergency Medical Service.

Provincial Social Services Officer Arlene Tongco said that they are also in need of psychosocial and trauma counsellors to debrief the affected residents.

Tongco said that they only have one person trained in psychosocial stress debriefing and they have asked the regional DSWD in Butuan City to help.

Tongco said they have distributed food relief assistance to victims of the quake.

“In the morning, the number of evacuees is small because some of them are working, but at night, there can be hundreds of them here,” Tongco said.

Tongco added that they distributed 150 relief food packs on Saturday and are expected to distribute 300 on Monday.

“We also have hot porridge for the displaced every morning,” Tongco said.

Most of the city has power restored but water remains a problem.

Even hotels here have no stable water supply.

Disaster officials and journalists flew to Barangay Talisay, Nonoc Island, the epicenter of the quake on Monday afternoon. Contrary to expectations, the barangay suffered little or no damage.

Teacher Ermilinda Ytac said  the shaking was scary but there was no damage to the houses in the barangay.

The old wooden stilt house of teacher Shahani Pearl Duero collapsed but not during the quake but only on Sunday after a series of aftershocks.

Concrete houses in the island were left unscathed and the roads showed few signs of cracks.

Vic Sapinit, Human Resource Officer of Pacific Nickel Philippines Inc., based in Nonoc Island shared that they have no idea that the epicenter of the quake was island.

“We felt the ground shake, it was like the sound of a rolling thunder, only that the thunder is underground, it was very scary,” Sapinit said. With John Paolo Bencito

Topics: Antonio Tirol , Surigao province , Earthquake survivors , Philippine Red Cross Surigao City chapter , Department of Social Welfare and Development
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