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Horizontal destruction

6.7-magnitude quake puts Surigao del Norte under state of calamity; 6 killed, 126 injured

IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT – Residents look at the collapsed Anao-aon bridge after an earthquake hit Surigao City at around 10 p.m. Friday. Photo at right shows a woman and her children leaving the emergency room of a local hospital where they were treated for injuries sustained during the 6.7-magnitude quake, which has killed six and injured 126 others. (Reuters, AFP)


Surigao City, Surigao del Norte — A 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck the province of Surigao del Norte late Friday night, causing widespread panic and the displacement of hundreds of residents as the immediate and visible destruction or damage to buildings and public infrastructure resulted in the deaths of six people and the injury of at least 126 others.

Disaster officials said the powerful temblor rocked the entire province sideways at exactly 10:03 p.m. Friday and was strongest felt at Intensity 6 in this city. The shaking lasted for about 10 seconds or less.

Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) Director Renato Solidum said the tectonic quake was a result of the strike slip or horizontal movement of the Philippine Fault Zone’s (PFZ) Surigao segment and emanated from a depth of 11 kilometers. Its epicenter was located 14 kilometers north, 78 degrees west of Surigao City.

“Surigao City felt the highest brunt of the ground’s shaking, with intensity rating 7, which is called ‘destructive shaking,’” Solidum said.

Within hours of the occurrence, an emergency meeting conducted by the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) was convened and its chairman, Vice Mayor Alfonso Casurra, said Mayor Ernesto T. Matugas has declared Surigao City under a state of calamity due to the damage the quake had caused to public and private infrastructure.

Schools were shut and citizens warned against aftershocks that may cause further damage and injury.

Later Saturday, Provincial Information Officer Mary Jul Espuerte also made the announcement that Surigao del Norte Governor Sol Matugas had declared the entire province under a state of calamity.


The death toll in Friday night’s tremor climbed to six, while the injured persons reached 126, according to Surigao del Norte Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO) head, Ramon Gotinga.

“Death toll as of now is six, on the damages (sustained), assessment is still ongoing,” Gotinga told the Philippine News Agency in a message. “Number of wounded as of now is at 126,” he added.

Four of the fatalities on the earthquake were identified by the office of Gov. Matugas as Lorenzo Deguinio, Robert Iludo, Jr., JM Ariar and Lito Welson.

Romina Marasigan, spokesperson of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), belied initial reports (not in The Manila Bulletin) that there were 15 dead during the quake.

When asked about the cause of the deaths, Marasigan replied: “Blunt force trauma. So probably, heavy or hard objects collapsed on them.”

At least 80 of the injured victims were recuperating from their injuries at the Caraga Regional Hospital (CRH), while 20 others were admitted at the Surigao Medical Center. The Miranda Hospital in Surigao City logged eight patients suffering from various injuries as a result of falling debris during the earthquake.

“We also recorded one dead at the Miranda Family Hospital in Surigao City. There were a lot of injured people,” said Senior Inspector Tessiel Moleta, head of the Police Community Relations office of Surigao City police.

None of the victims was taken to the St. Paul Hospital, which had already announced “no admittance of patients,” following cracks and other damage to the hospital facility due to the tremor.

A lot of shaking

The tremor, which was strongest felt at Intensity 6 in Surigao City and lasted as short as seven seconds, also had reported intensities in the following areas: Mandaue City, San Ricardo, Limasawa and San Francisco, Southern Leyte (Intensity 5); Hinunangan, Southern Leyte and Butuan City (Intensity 4); Hibok-hibok, Camiguin, Tolosa and Tacloban, Leyte, Bislig City, Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental (Intensity 3); Cagayan de Oro City, Talacogon City, Agusan del Sur, Dumaguete City and Cebu City (Intensity 1), Phivolcs said.

Solidum said it was the strongest temblor in the area since the PFZ Surigao segment’s last movement in 1879 which triggered a magnitude 7.4 earthquake.

“(The) Quake didn’t trigger tsunami because the fault moved horizontally and not vertically,” Solidum added.

However, it delivered more than 100 aftershocks since Friday evening, with magnitudes ranging from 2.0 to 3.7. Cagayan de Oro City, which is 300 km southwest of Surigao City, felt the temblor at Intensity 3.

Massive damage

Houses and a bridge collapsed, roads and an airport runway cracked and communication lines and power supply were cut in some areas of Surigao del Norte when the 6.7-magnitude earthquake jolted Surigao City and nearby areas.

Sr. Insp. Moleta said there was “massive damage” as a result of the earthquake in Surigao City.

“We cannot use the airport,” said Moleta. “The runway of the airport in Surigao City is near the river, the runway was easily damaged when the quake triggered a liquefaction.”

She said the operation of the port in Surigao City had to be moved to the nearest post because the roads leading to the area were also damaged.

“There were other structures that were damaged. The Anao-aon Bridge in the town of San Francisco in Surigao del Norte collapsed. But it was due for repair before the earthquake,” said Marasigan.

“There were also houses that collapsed or the ceiling or wall that collapsed. We still don’t have the number, we are still conducting damage assessment,” the NDRRMC spokesman added.

Surigao del Norte PIO Espuerte noted that the Lipata Terminal, which connects the “roll-on, roll-off” (RORO) for both private and public utility vehicles, has also been temporarily closed.

The Lipata Port was not damaged, but a bridge leading to the port terminal was closed due to damage from the quake, she added.

Espuerte said the provincial government is coordinating with various government line agencies in a bid to bring back normalcy to the city and the province as soon as possible.

Several other buildings and business establishments, among them the Gaisano Capital shopping mall, Parkway Hotel, and Absolute Essentials building, also suffered damage.

Partial damage was observed at the Surigao State College of Technology, Palma Store Building, parts of the road in Barangay Rizal, and parts of the National Highway in Barangay Luna.

Other buildings that were damaged were the Parkway Hotel, Alexandra Store, PACEMCO Building and the Yuipco Building

In a two-page report, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)-Caraga Regional Director Danilo Versola said the Anao-aon Bridge in the town of San Francisco is “not passable to all types of vehicles” after it collapsed.

He said the powerful earthquake also damaged the approach slab and concrete barriers of Malico Bridge along Daang Maharlika Road.

Versola noted that other affected bridges in Caraga Region included Kinabutan Bridges 1 and 2, Friendship and Banahaw Bridges. These bridges have damaged slope protection, concrete railings, and approach slabs.

Loss of power

Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, 4th Infantry Division spokesman, said a power outage in a large part of the city occurred as soon as the temblor struck.

The management of Surigao del Norte Electric Cooperative (SURNECO) reported their initial damage of their building to P5 million.

While it assured that it will continue to monitor the power situation in Surigao, the Department of Energy (DOE) reported no major damage in the province’s energy facilities due to the tremor.

SURNECO said it will be able to energize the isolated areas once the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) completes its maintenance activities on or before 6 p.m. yesterday.

It is expected that 90 percent will be energized as soon as NGCP restores power.

Help needed

Meanwhile, the Caraga Regional Hospital (CRH) is in need of more tents, folding beds and other medical equipments intended for the quake victims. CRH has already declared “Code Blue Alert” status due to the effect of earthquake. All medical staff are required to report and render 24-hour service.

Gov. Matugas said the provincial government had already extended relief assistance to quake victims and cash assistance to the immediate members of the family who had casualties during the incident.

Palace and prayers

Meanwhile, Malacañang appealed for cooperation following the destructive 6.7-magnitude earthquake which rocked Surigao City.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella also asked the public to continue praying and continue the spirit of ‘bayanihan,’ a Filipino custom which refers to the spirit of communal unity.

“Let’s be careful, let’s be cooperative with one another. And let us avoid ‘yung mga areas where the structures are unsteady and unsure,” Abella said in an interview over Radyo ng Bayan.

“Patuloy po tayo na (Let’s continue to) — we’ll be looking out for one another. These are trying times and we are — our hearts go out to the Surigaonon,” he added.

The Diocese of Surigao asked the faithful to beg for God’s protection and guidance following the strong earthquake that hit the area Friday. “Let us beg for God’s protection and guidance as we face this trying moment,” Fr. Bob Puracan, Chancellor of the Diocese of Surigao, told CBCP News.

He asked Surigaonons to be more vigilant and sensitive as they are still experiencing aftershocks.

Despite of what happened, the priest said they thank the Lord for keeping them safe.

“Perhaps a good reminder for all of us, not just for the Surigaonons, of our human limitations,” said Puracan.

“It is on this trying times that we Surigaonon can truly express our communion, sharing what we have and helping those who needs our assistance,” he added.

Quick response

Quick response teams of the regional command of Police Regional Office 13 based in Butuan City already arrived here on Saturday to assist the quake victims.

The NDRRMC said it immediately met with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) officials to map out plan to supply the affected residents.

“We already had a meeting just to ensure that we will be on top of the situation, that we have provisions of assistance and immediate mobilization,” said Marasigan.

For its part, the Department of Tourism (DOT) is now closely coordinating with local government units (LGUs) to ensure the safety of the tourists in areas affected by the quake.

The DOT has also opened its overseas and regional offices for inquiries regarding the travel situation in the affected areas.

“Potential travelers and those already in the country may check with DOT overseas and regional offices for updates of travel situations in affected areas,” the agency noted.

No flights

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has restricted operations at the Surigao Airport in Surigao City due to runway damage brought about by the tremor.

Suspension is effective since Saturday until March 10, 2017.

In line with this advice, Cebu Pacific flights to and from Surigao will be suspended on February 11, 2017 onwards.

Affected passengers may be accommodated via mounted Cebu-Butuan-Cebu flights or avail of any of the following options, without penalties: rebook their flights for travel within 30 days from original departure date; reroute their flights to alternate stations (Cebu or Bacolod) within 30 days from original departure date; or opt for full refund or travel fund. (With reports from Aaron B. Recuenco, Aytch dela Cruz, Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos, Leslie Ann G. Aquino, Raymund F. Antonio, Ariel Fernandez, Charina Clarisse L. Echaluce, and PNA)

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