Rescuers race to save lives

Rescue worker
Rescue workers tend to a victim in Porac, Pampanga, after a powerful earthquake hit northern Philippines on Monday. Rescuers in one area were using heavy equipment and their bare hands to hunt for survivors in the rubble left by the strongest quake to strike close to the densely populated Philippine capital in years. AFP/Noel CELIS

THE death toll from Monday afternoon’s magnitude 6.1 earthquake that hit Pampanga and other parts of Luzon including Metro Manila rose to 16 yesterday as police, military and government search-and-rescue teams scrambled to find more survivors in a collapsed supermarket in Porac.

The toll was based on the update issued yesterday by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

According to Undersecretary Ricardo B. Jalad, executive Director of NDRRMC and administrator of Office of Civil Defense, of the 16 fatalities,  five were from Chuzon Supermarket that collapsed in Porac Pampanga,  seven were from separate Barangays in Porac, two from Lubao,  one in Angeles City, both in Pampanga and one in San Marcelino, Zambales.

But in the wake of Monday’s deadly temblor a more powerful earthquake yesterday struck in the south.

The US Geological Survey put the fresh quake on the central island of Samar at 6.4 magnitude, which is stronger than the one that wrought significant damage Monday in Pampanga. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology recorded the tremor at 6.2 magnitude.

The latest quake sent terrified locals fleeing into the streets, with images on social media showing cracked roads, crumbling church walls and shattered glass.

“No one started crying, but of course some panicked because it was really strong,” said Rey Estrobo, a supervisor at a hotel in Borongan town, near the epicentre.

“We’re still getting hit with aftershocks, even as we speak,” he told AFP.

Pampanga Governor Lilia Pineda said that seven survivors have been pulled out from the rubble of the Chuzon Supermarket in Porac municipality where at least 24 were initially reported as missing.

Pineda said rescuers worked overnight to retrieve the survivors, one of whom had his foot amputated after it was crushed by a wall. She said that rescuers backed up by K-9 teams have heard some sounds underneath the collapsed building raised hopes for another survivor.

As of 9:15 a.m. yesterday, the Philippine National Police headed by Director General Oscar D. Albayalde said that eight people were killed while 137 were injured as a result of the powerful quake.

Police said that two of the victims died in Barangay Sta. Cruz in Lubao, Pampanga; four inside the Chuzon Supermarket in Porac; one in Sitio Bayarong Tikes in Bgy. Buhawe, San Marcelino, Zambales; and one in Bgy. San Jose, Angeles City. The PNP said there were 24 listed as missing inside the Porac supermarket.

A total of 136 persons were wounded in Central Luzon: 13 in Bataan; 106 in Pampanga and 17 in Angeles City and another in front of the One Torre Grand Centre along Espana Street corner Jhocson Street in Sampaloc, Manila.

Police said 47 houses and infrastructures were either damaged or destroyed including parts of the Emilio Aguinaldo College at the corner of San Marcelino St. and United Nations Avenue in Ermita, Manila and 46 others in Region 3, 23 of which were in Pampanga and 13 in Bataan.

The Sasmuan-Lubao Bridge in Pampanga remained passable to light vehicles while the Megadike Access Roads from Dolores to Calibutbut/Maliwalo in Bacolor, Pampanga was closed to traffic.

Police said that a power blackout also hit Bacolor, Sta Rita, Floridablanca, Guagua, Lubao, Porac and Sasmuan municipalities in Pampanga.

Police Regional Office 3 director Brigadier General Joel Napoleon M. Coronel said that he has already activated the Disaster Incident Management Task Group and deployed all available mobile force personnel in areas badly-hit by the earthquake for search, rescue and clearing operations.

Duterte sets visit

President Rodrigo Duterte was set to visit the quake-hit province of Pampanga yesterday, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

Duterte was scheduled to conduct a situation briefing at the Pampanga provincial capitol after visiting the province’s hardest hit areas. Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda also confirmed the President’s scheduled visit.

Albayalde orders PNP inspection

Gen. Albayalde yesterday directed the PNP Engineering Service headed by Brig. Gen. Elmer Cabreros to immediately inspect all Police Station buildings and other camp facilities in Metro Manila and Region 3 following the earthquake.

The PNP chief said that he wanted his engineers to check for damages and determine their buildings’ structural integrity, safety, and fitness for use by PNP personnel and the public availing of police services.

Likewise, Gen. Albayalde emphasized the physical security of all detention cells to ensure that no suspects under custody shall be able to escape.

Shortly after the earthquake, Gen. Albayalde ordered the PNP Directorate for Logistics, Major General Edwin C. Roque to immediately deploy all available PNP vehicles in Camp Crame to transport stranded people from Cubao to Monumento and Cubao to Pasay Taft.

National Capital Region Police Office chief Maj. Gen. Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar also dispatched all available trucks and mobile vehicles from the NCRPO headquarters and the five NCRPO districts to help ferry commuters stranded in different parts of the metropolis.

“Paramount is the safety of the public, the maintenance of security and order in all affected areas, and the clearing of all roads and bridges for search, rescue and relief operations,” said Gen. Albayalde.

State of calamity

Governor Pineda has declared suspension of work in both government and private institutions in the province to give way to the assessment of buildings following the 6.1 magnitude earthquake last Monday afternoon.

House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo earlier proposed the declaration of a state of calamity in stricken Pampanga.

The Sangguniang Panlalawigan yesterday declared Pampanga under a state of calamity to enable the province and the people to immediately rebuild after the 6.1-magnitude earthquake last Monday, Vice Governor Dennis Pineda said.

Pineda, vice chair of the PDRRMO, said he also asked the mayors of Apalit, Sto. Tomas and Guagua to order the temporary closure of Chuzon Supermarket branches in the three towns to allow structural assessments primarily to ensure the people’s safety.

The Chuzon branch in Porac, which was 4-storey high, collapsed shortly after the tremor.

“We cannot account for all the more than 90 Chuzon workers. We have no information if they managed to run to safety or if they were trapped in the rubbles.  We advised the management to make the survivors or their relatives report their situation until a full accounting of people is done,” the governor said.

At the Clark International Airport, Jaime Melo, president of the Clark International Airport Corp., said they will try to have flights yesterday afternoon.

He said they plan to resume full operation and install makeshift check-in counters by Wednesday morning.

He said the damaged terminal still needs to be assessed, including the crack on the wall of the second floor.

Stampedes were reported by the PDRRMO at the SM Downtown and SM Pampanga during the earthquake that resulted in slight injuries to 21 persons.

DPWH probe

The Department of Public Works and Highways is investigating the collapse of the Chuzon Supermarket.

DPWH Secretary Mark A. Villar said of all the infrastructures in the area, only Chuzon Supermarket collapsed, which prompted them to make an assessment to determine the factors that caused the destruction.

“Itong Chuzon market actually medyo bago pa itong building. Kaya ngayon ang ginagawa namin kumukuha kami ng mga samples at gagawa kami ng assessment kung ano yung naging sanhi ng pagbagsak ng building,” he said.

However, Villar said their current focus is the rescue operation of those who are trapped in the collapsed infrastructure.

The DPWH chief pointed out that even if the Chuzon Supermarket was erected in soft soil like lahar, it should have used engineering solutions to make it withstand earthquakes.

“May engineering solution yan. Puwedeng maglagay ng piling para tumibay yung foundation, kaya hindi rin excuse yung environment,” he said.

Porac was one of the towns extremely affected by the Mount Pinatubo’s emission of lahar in 1991.

PRC to the rescue

The  Philippine Red Cross (PRC) deployed manpower and vehicles to assist in the search and rescue operations in a collapsed supermarket in Porac, Pampanga following the 6.1-magnitude earthquake that hit parts of Luzon on Monday.

“We are all together. Red Cross continues the search and rescue operations for the missing individuals at Chuzon Supermarket. We deployed our assets from nearby chapters to provide additional manpower in affected areas. No one shall be left behind,” PRC Chairman Richard Gordon said.

Gordon also urged business owners to take precautionary measures to ensure the safety of people.

HNP sortie cancelled

From Malaybalay, Bukidnon Hugpong ng Pagbabago founder and chairman Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte yesterday sent her condolences to the families of those who died in the strong earthquake that hit Central Luzon and Metro Manila.

Because of the 6.1 magnitude earthquake, Mayor Duterte said the HNP decided to cancel the campaign sortie scheduled in Limay, Bataan on April 26.

“This is to let Pampanga and Bataan focus on their post-incident activities,” the presidential daughter said.

At least  nine schools were  damaged from the magnitude 6.1 earthquake that rocked Luzon, the Department of Education said Tuesday.

According to an initial report released by DepEd, eight schools in Central Luzon and one in the National Capital Region (NCR) sustained damage from the quake.

The list of  schools that sustained damage:

• Cupang Senior High School in Muntinlupa City

• Laukan National High School in Bataan

• Mabalacat Elementary School in Mabalacat City, Pampanga

• Malusac Elementary School in Pampanga

• Pio Elementary School in Pampanga

• Camias High School in Pampanga

• Subic Central Elementary School in Olongapo City

• San Nicolas Integrated School in San Fernando City

• Sindalan Elementary School in San Fernando City

DepEd said cracks were seen starting from the second floor to fourth floor of Pagcor Building in Cupang Senior High School in Muntinlupa City, affecting 20 of its classrooms.

DepEd reported that other schools had collapsed perimeter fences, damaged pathways, buildings and corridors.

With Bernard Galang, Jester P. Manalastas, Lee Ann P. Ducusin, Arlene Rivera