Makilala, North Cotabato—A scarcity of safe drinking water and the lack of toilets remain two of the major challenges faced by the local government units affected by the series of earthquakes and aftershocks that hit parts of Mindanao on Oct. 16, 29 and 31.
In Malasila Elementary School in Makilala, North Cotabato, evacuees said they had to wait in a long queue to relieve themselves as they share one toilet inside a classroom.
The school currently houses 646 families from Barangay Luayon and 1,749 families from Malasila.
A teacher in the school, Bedie Ratliff, said Monday the facility is being overwhelmed and he fears an impending health crisis.
The back portion of the school, she said, is already littered with human feces due to the shortage of toilets in the school.
“The foul odor can be smelled around the evacuation area,” she said.
Ratliff said she fears poor sanitation may exacerbate the health concerns among evacuees, noting that some of them are already experiencing stomachaches.
Several cases of diarrhea among children have also been recorded, she said.
Poor sanitation is linked to transmission of diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid and polio.
Acting Vice Governor Shirlyn Macasarte-Villanueva said local government units should address sanitation problems in their respective evacuation centers.
In Kidapawan City and Makilala, safe drinking water was running out after faucets went dry following the magnitude 6.5 quake that rocked North Cotabato on Oct. 31.
Williamor Magbanua, city information officer, said on Friday the major reservoirs of Metro Kidapawan Water District were damaged by a landslide.
“We suffer lack of water, mineral water from stores also ran out,” Magbanua said, adding that many people have not taken a bath since Thursday.
Magbanua said fire trucks and water tankers supply water for washing and bathing but drinking water remains a problem.
Stella Gonzales, water district manager, said repair work has been ongoing in all damaged reservoirs but frequent aftershocks also halted repair works.
Aside from lack of water, Kidapawan City is also experiencing frequent power interruptions since the earthquake struck.
“No water, no electricity, no stores to buy food, where are we going?” Cherry Dillis, a resident of Barangay Poblacion, asked.
Meanwhile, the Energy Development Corp. that runs the Mt. Apo Geothermal Power Plant, denied its workers were trapped when the Oct. 31 tremor struck.
“We confirm that all our employees have been accounted for and are safe after another strong earthquake struck Kidapawan,” EDC said in a statement.
“Our M1 and M2 power plants in Mount Apo were initially affected and were put on turning gear operation only,” it added.
To expedite the release of relief items and goods for those severely affected by the Mindanao earthquakes, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana urged quake victims to go to their designated evacuation centers and barangay halls for assistance.
The defense chief made this appeal following reports that some quake victims were begging for help in the streets.
“They should go to those places where the assistance is waiting for them,” Lorenzana, the government official tasked to oversee rescue-and-relief efforts in Mindanao, said in a statement late Monday.
The local government of Makilala discouraged the public from handing out donations to quake victims waiting at the roadside.
Lorenzana instructed barangay officials to assist in the distribution of relief goods and management of evacuation centers.
Local government officials and the police were also directed to clear the highways of displaced persons and bring them to evacuation centers so that they can receive relief services.
The DND chief also directed all government agencies to support the ongoing relief operations being spearheaded by the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Office of Civil Defense.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology on Tuesday said more aftershocks can be expected in Cotabato.
There have been more than 2,800 aftershocks since Oct. 16, when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck southeast of Makilala, Cotabato.
The areas are still highly stressed. Meaning, there are still a lot of aftershocks being recorded and we expect aftershocks to occur still within weeks,” Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said.
In other developments:
• Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the Department of Education’s school building budget for 2020 should be increased in view of the damage done to 500 classrooms and 700 school buildings during last month’s earthquakes.
• The House of Representatives has started raising funds for victims of the earthquakes that hit Mindanao last month. Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said he asked that Congress as a whole must do extra sacrifices to help the victims of the earthquakes that hit Mindanao last October. With PNA