Tuesday’s 7.2 quake: death toll could have been worse if it were not a holiday

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/15 October) – It could have been worse.

If Tuesday’s magnitude 7.2 earthquake had struck at 8:12 a.m. on a school day or working day, the number of dead and wounded in Bohol and Cebu and other parts of Visayas and Mindanao where the quake was felt, would have been more.

But there were no classes and no work in government and private offices because Tuesday is a national holiday in observance of Eid’l Adha, the Islamic feast of the holy sacrifice.

If it were not a holiday, thousands of students and workers would have been inside classrooms and their offices when the quake struck.

As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported that as of 3 p.m., there were 28 dead – nine in Cebu, 18 in Bohol and one in Siquijor – and 159 wounded – 54 in Cebu, 102 in Bohol and three in Siquijor.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman told a press conference aired live from Manila that a four-year old girl was killed in a stampede in Cebu as hundreds of beneficiaries of the government’s 4Ps anti-poverty program scampered out when the quake struck.

In the same press conference, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, NDRRMC chair, acknowledged that the holiday was a factor behind the low number of casualties because there was less convergence of people. But he added that it would have been a different case, too, if the quake happened on a Sunday and thousands of churchgoers were inside the churches that collapsed.

The NDRRMC’s website reported that the centuries old churches — San Pedro Church in Loboc, Bohol collapsed while the façade and belfry of Baclayon Church also in Bohol were “totally damaged.”

In Cebu City, the NDRRMC said the bell tower of the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino in Cebu “collapsed.”

The NDRRMC report added that several buildings also collapsed including the Mandaue Public Market and Pasil Fishport in Cebu and the municipal hall of Trinidad in Bohol as well as the Tagbilaran City port terminal. The ceiling of the second floor terminal building of the Tagbilaran Flight Service Station and airport tower also collapsed. The Department of Social Welfare and Development field office in Bohol “partially collapsed,” the NDRRMC report said.

Netizens posted messages praising God and Allah that Tuesday is a holiday.

“How many people, especially children, would have been hurt (or killed) as a result of the quake if today was not declared a national holiday?” asked Kaloy Manlupig of Balay Mindanaw.

“It’s fortunate that today is a national non-working holiday because of Eid’l Adha. Think about it: It’s Eid’l Adha that saved many lives!” wrote Robert Maulana Alonto, a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel.

President Benigno S. Aquino III on October 3 signed Proclamation No. 658 declaring October 15, 2013, a regular holiday throughout the country, to celebrate Eid’l Adha, one of Islam’s two major festivals celebrated by 1.6 billion Muslims around the world.

Eid’l Adha is celebrated yearly to mark the end of Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, and to commemorate Prophet Ibrahim’s (Abraham among Christians) act of sacrificing his eldest son, Ishmael. God spared the boy’s life and instead gave Abraham a lamb to sacrifice.

Republic Act 9849 provides that Eid’l Adha, though falling on movable dates every year, shall be celebrated as a national holiday.

The quake affected not only Bohol, Cebu and Siquijor but also Iloilo, Bacolod and several parts of Mindanao.

In Cagayan de Oro, the quake, which registered Intensity 4, struck just as Muslims were attending the congregational prayers for Eid’l Adha at the Don Gregorio Pelaez Sports Center.

“Let us praise Allah until the earthquake will stop. Earthquakes are afraid of Allah. It will eventually stop,” Shiek Abdulmalik Maulana Fatani told the crowd. (see other story).

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) and the United States Geological Service reported that the epicenter of the magnitude 7.2 quake was located at two kilometers south of Carmen, Bohol in the Visayas, with a depth of 33 kilometers. (MindaNews)