Quake triggers panic among Sendong survivors in CDO

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/06 February) — The 6.9  magnitude earthquake that rocked Central Visayas at noon Monday also struck this city, triggering panic among residents still reeling from the catastrophic landfall of tropical storm Sendong in December.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) located the earthquake’s epicenter at 11:49 a.m. in La Libertad town, Central Visayas (9.964°N, 123.246°E) and had a depth of 46.6 km. The earthquake was 72 km north of Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, 74 km west-northwest of Tagbilaran City, Bohol and 80 km west-southwest of Cebu City, Cebu Island.

Residents of one of the worst-hit barangays in December panicked during the quake while others suffered migraines and dizziness.

The Office of Civil Defense (OCD 10), in a faxed bulletin to the Philippine Information Agency (PIA 10), Monday afternoon reported no widespread damage caused by the earthquake.

Ramil Lawas, 34, a resident of Barangay Consolacion and a father of two, said  he panicked when his wooden two-storey house started to sway.

“We were about to eat our lunch when our house started to sway. I immediately gathered my family outside the house because it had just been submerged in flood waters and mud after Sendong. I am confident of the stability of the house,” he said.

Ronald Salar, 39, a resident of Barangay 15, said he was surfing the internet when the tremor occurred. He added he suddenly felt dizzy after the earthquake.

“The earthquake must have been really very strong because my head was throbbing in pain 30 minutes after the earthquake,” he said.

Tricycle driver Lourderico Pedimonte, 35, said he had to pull over because he felt dizzy.

Monday’s quake revived fears of a tsunami. On December 23, 2011, just days after Sendong ravaged this city, a spurious report aired by local station Magnum Radio that a tsunami was forming off the coast of Macajalar Bay created massive panic among residents. Most of the residents in low-lying areas scrambled for public transportation to flee to a higher elevation upon hearing the radio report.

Even as “earthquakes of this size sometimes generate local tsunamis that can be destructive along coasts located within a hundred kilometers of the earthquake’s epicenter,” the Japan Meteorological Agency reported in their website that there is “no destructive widespread tsunami threat exists based on historical earthquake and tsunami data.”

Still, the agency advised that “authorities in the region of the epicenter should be aware of this possibility and take appropriate action.”

A press statement from Malacanang said the President is “being constantly updated of the situation.”

“He has already tasked PHIVOLCS to monitor the affected areas for further seismic activity. A Level 2 tsunami alert has already been issued by PHIVOLCS requiring residents in affected areas to stay away from the shorelines and to be on alert for unusual waves,” the statement read.

It added that Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas has instructed Coast Guard Chief Edmund Tan to prevent fishermen from going out to sea for the duration of the alert and that PNP Region VI and VII “have already been instructed by Gen. Nicanor Bartolome to keep the population away from the shoreline, and to ensure the maintenance of peace and order, while the alert is ongoing.”

The statement added that personnel of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)  are on standby to lend support and relief to affected citizens.

“While there are no forced evacuations being ordered, we implore the people in affected areas to remain vigilant and take the necessary safety precautions. Let us cooperate with government agencies, allow them to do their work, and remain calm and watchful,” it said. (Cong Corrales/MindaNews)