State of calamity mulled due to two-day tremors

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/ 13 April) — The Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (MDRRMC) of Wao, Lanao del Sur has passed a resolution recommending to its Sangguniang Bayan (SB) to declare the town under a state of calamity.

Francis Garcia, head of the MDRRM office told MindaNews in a telephone interivew Thursday afternoon that the decision is now up to the SB. Garcia said his office identified close to P25 million in estimated damages for both public and private infrastructure, mostly houses, schools, chapels and mosques.

Garcia said the damages were reported in 14 “seriously affected and damaged” barangays out of Wao’s 26 barangays. Four of the “seriously affected” are Eastern, Western, Extension and Manila Group in the poblacion area while 10 other villages where damages were reported are Balatin, Banga, Buntongan, East Kilikili, Mimbuaya, Muslim Village, Panang, Park Area, Siran and West Kilikili.

Damage wrought by the magnitude 6 quake that registered Intensity VII in Wao, Lanao del Sur early morning of April 12, 2017. Photo courtesy of ERROL PEDROSA

According to Republic Act 10121 or the Philippine Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010, declaration and lifting of the state of calamity may be issued by the local Sanggunian upon recommendation of the local DRRMC based on the results of the Damage and Needs Analysis (DANA) . The law provides among other criteria that if two or more barangays are affected, a state of calamity can be declared.

Initial estimates at the council put the number of affected residents at 1,000 families but the MDRRMO’s validation on the ground and listing of affected persons and families along with actual worth of damage to properties, is still ongoing.

Garcia said they have directed barangay officials to advise their constituents to “stay in safe areas” and “not to return to their houses especially those considered dangerous already.”

He said so far there are no designated evacuation sites although initially they considered a covered court. But residents also do not feel safe there and so many of them have camped out in cleared areas near their houses, Garcia added.

“Stay put,  no roaming, just watch out”

Many residents, he added, were traumatized by the big tremors, magnitude 6 on April 12 and 5.3 on April 13 and the aftershocks.

“Even at the slightest shaking, they will (start panicking),” he added.

Some residents in Barangay Kilikili opted to sleep on the roadside Wednesday night. Photo courtesy of ERROL PEDROSA

Cecilia Hisuan, an elementary school teacher said this is the worst natural calamity they have experienced so far since 1955.  She said the Day 1 quake (April 12) was stronger.

“Nakuyawan gid kami, Gapadalagan na dayon kami sa guwa,” (We were frightened, we ran out of the house) she said in mixed Cebuano and Hiligaynon.

The same is true with the aftershocks. It’s also frightening especially that we have a three-year old child at home, she said in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon.

Hisuan, a Grade 1 school teacher at Western Wao Pilot Elementary Schoo,. said they are trying to live life as usual despite the fearsome tremors.

She said there are talks in the neighborhood that the tremors might be reminders to those who lack faith in God and those who are not practicing their faith.  She said whatever it is, they try to stay safe.

“We stay put, we don’t roam around. We just watch out and be ready for danger,” she added.

From houses to hospital

The first round of tremors Wednesday left damages to at least 120 houses, based on an initial report of the MDRRMO Thursday morning.  A local government responder said a number of those houses were on the brink of collapse on Wednesday.

“Many of those endangered houses would probably have collapsed already today,”  he said.

As of Thursday morning, cordoned off due to “totally wrecked” condition is a building of the Panang National High School, the Heidi Pension House in Kilikili, a wall in a classroom in Panang Elementary School that collapsed and the house owned reportedly by Michael Panes.

The MDRRMO has fielded personnel along with personnel of other local government functionaries to do damage and needs assessment on Thursday afternoon.

In Brgy. West Kilikili, initial reports said 48 or majority of the number of households reported partial damages to property. In East Kilikili, at least 10 houses were reported to be partially damaged. In Brgy. Park Area, 24 houses were reported to be partially damaged and the fence of a mosque and a wall of a multi-purpose hall collapsed.

In Panang, aside from the cordoned Panang National High School, cracks were also reported in two mosques and on the national highway.

In Balatin, six houses were reported partially damaged and the wall of a mosque is about to collapse while decorative portions of the roof deck fell in another mosque in the village.

An assessment team went to Brgy. Serran first thing on Thursday as various damages were reported in the village. In Brgy. Extension, two houses were reported to be partially damaged.

The ceiling of the local branch of the Land Bank of the Philippines was reported to have collapsed in the poblacion area. The tremors also left cracks in the walls of all the wards in the Wao District Hospital sending patients outside to take refuge on tents pitched later. An MDRRMO staffer said around 20 patients of the hospital spent the night in the tents rather than risk inside where the ceiling is in danger  of collapsing.

The supply of potable water was also disrupted due to a damage in the pipeline of the Wao Water District. It was initially halted due to the murky water but was allowed to restore despite the brownish color. The water district has assured residents they will sanitize their pipeline as soon as normalcy is restored. They have also recommended rehabilitation of their 18-year old water system, in their letter to municipal mayor Bobby Balicao.

Holy Week activities

So far, based on the LDRRMO initial report, five mosques were partially damaged in the town.

Fr. Floreddelito “Yrap” Nazareno, parish priest of the Immaculate Conception, said damages were also reported in three of the parish’s 65 chapels — San Jose Chapel in Kilikili where wall cracks are evident and portions of the ceiling collapsed; in Sto. Niño Chapel in Buntongan where a road crack extended into the tiled floor of the hall from the entrance to the altar and in San Jose Chapel in Serran Village where there is a crack in the wall.

He said the continuing tremor has caused fear.  “Dili makatulog ang mga katawhan sa balik-balik nga linog” he added.

But he added that faith in God prevailed in the town as parishioners faced the tremors with prayer and maturity.

Before the two-day tremors, close to 600 parishioners joined the annual 12- kilometer petition walk cum way of the cross prayer from Katutungan to Sto Rosario in Pagalongan.  He said they prayed for “respect for the dignity of life” and “peace in the family”.

He said although people were affected but their mood is still more positive and thankful no one was killed or hurt by the quakes despite the continuing tremors.

However, he said the municipal government needed to declare the town under state of calamity so it could extend assistance to the needs of the residents.

Fr. Nazareno said Holy Week activities will proceed as usual with the Good Friday Via Crucis (way of the cross)  in Sitio Diomil in Brgy, Banga.

Among the duties of MDRRMO staff, who are preoccupied with the damage and needs assessments and other disaster response, are to provide medical assistance and potable water during the procession. (Walter I. Balane / DXBU 104.5 FM of Bukidnon State University, for MindaNews)