Makilala, North Cotabato—People displaced, including as many as 3.2-million children, by the series of major quakes and aftershocks trooped to the highway here, asking for water, food, and tarpaulin sheets from motorists.
The group Save the Children Philippines, which raised the estimates, quoting the Department of Education, has deployed an assessment team in North Cotabato and Davao del Sur following a magnitude 6.6 earthquake that hit the town of Tulunan, on Thursday, the second strong temblor that jolted parts of Mindanao in weeks.
Lawyer Alberto Muyot, chief executive officer of Save the Children Philippines, said a total of 3.2-million school-aged children were affected in the series of five strong earthquakes, most of them in the conflict and marginalized areas in Region XI, Region XII, and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“Most of the 3.2-million children affected are in conflict-affected and marginalized parts of the Philippines where access to emergency services is scant. Our team is already on the ground to assess the situation, determine the extent of damage and provide vital support to the affected communities,” said Muyot in a statement.
The people in North Cotabato listed on a white recycled tarp their immediate needs and displayed it beside the highway for motorists to see.
The reports filtered out of Cotabato as a magnitude 4.4 earthquake struck Sarangani in Davao Occidental, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.
PHIVOLCS reported the tectonic earthquake, caused by the movement of the earth’s crust, happened at 1:03 p.m.
The epicenter of the earthquake was traced 04.32°N, 124.65°E – 153 km S 36° W of Sarangani.
The magnitude 4.4 shock occurred as the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said in its situational report the number of families affected by the series of temblors had reached 29,349 or 146,745 people,
They were in 149 barangays in Regions XI and XII.
A total 4,127 families or 20,635 people were staying in 27 evacuation centers while 1,370 families (6,850 people) were outside evacuation centers, it said.
The death toll remained at 17, while the number of missing was still pegged at two. Those injured numbered 327.
PHIVOLCS said aftershocks were still expected.
One such aftershock occurred early Saturday morning, with magnitude 4.5.
Responding motorists on board luxury vehicles stopped and distributed bottled water and other food supplies to quake victims who stay by the roadside in tents at night.
Speaking for the provincial crisis management team, provincial board member Jumar Cerebo, however, appealed to “good Samaritans” to course their assistance through local government units and not to distribute the aid on their own to avoid being mobbed by quake victims.
“Motorists who distributed bottled water to quake victims in front of a school were mobbed by unruly and thirsty residents. It was good that nobody was hurt,” he said.
But some motorists who bought bread, biscuits, and dry goods in other towns continued to give aid to quake victims queuing up beside the highway.
“I pity them. It’s better to help than receive something,” one motorist driving a Toyota Fortuner said in a brief interview with the Philippine News Agency after distributing foodstuff to some 50 people.
Eugene Villamor, 30, a quake victim, posted on social media that the people were glad that good Samaritans were coming over to help them.
“Your generosity will return to you,” he said.
The Save the Children Philippines said that based on figures from the Department of Education, a total of 3.2 million learners were affected by the magnitude 6.6 strong earthquake as they suffer from psychosocial stress, miss out on school due to damaged classrooms, and being displaced from their homes.
These children live in the conflict affected areas in BARMM, Davao, and SOCCSKSARGEN regions.
“We recognize the specific vulnerabilities of children who are facing the impact of disasters,” said Muyot.
Save the Children Philippines has prepositioned items such as teaching kits and temporary learning spaces that can be dispatched at any time to support the Department of Education to help learners resume classes in safe learning environment.
“Save the Children is ready to set up temporary classrooms so children don’t miss out on school. These learning spaces provide much-needed respite for children, some of whom may have lost everything, and provide a safe space for them to play and receive support,” said Muyot.
Save the Children Philippines will also set up child-friendly spaces to provide psychological first aid to children who suffer from psychosocial stress.
“We are doing everything we can to help them resume classes to establish normalcy in their routine and overcome their shock and emotional distress,” Muyot added in a statement.
Save the Children Philippines has reached out to corporate and individual donors to send cash donations to help scale up its assistance to children and their families affected by earthquakes.
In the House of Representatives, Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda said the structural integrity of public infrastructure was vital in preventing an earthquake from turning into a major disaster.
Citing the recent report from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, Legarda said the earthquake in North Cotabato on Oct. 29, with a magnitude of 6.6, had caused the death of at least 16 people, affected more than 6,000 families, and damaged 3,220 infrastructures in Regions IX, X, XI, XII, and BARMM, which includes more than 2,000 houses, 513 schools, 20 health facilities, and several places of worship, roads, bridges, public buildings and private establishments.
“Earthquakes turn into major disasters due to unsafe and poorly built structures, inappropriate site location of infrastructure projects, inadequate design and materials specification, and shortcuts in construction. The government must ensure that all public structures, especially bridges, school buildings and hospitals, are earthquake-proof through the conduct of a nationwide structural evaluation and by retrofitting these structures to allow them to withstand destructive natural occurrences such as earthquakes,” said Legarda, representative of Antique.
“The additional expense required for making structures safe from earthquakes is essentially a good investment especially if it will save thousands of precious lives,” she added in a statement.
Legarda also reiterated her call for preparedness against earthquakes in all parts of the country as a temblor of the same magnitude can happen any time.
She also reminded that the 2004 Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study, which was conducted by PHIVOLCS, the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Metro Manila Development Authority.
She said these agencies have warned of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Metro Manila that may destroy 169,000 houses, damage about 35 percent of all public buildings, including schools and hospitals, city halls, fire and police stations, cause 34,000 deaths, injure 114,000 injuries, break 86 percent of water pipelines, interrupt electricity and telephone services, and segregate Metro Manila into four sectors isolated by collapsed structures, fires and damaged roads, thereby making evacuation and emergency response difficult.
“We know that the Philippines is among the countries most vulnerable to earthquakes. Just this year, we have been hit by series of earthquakes: a magnitude 6.1 in Castillejos, Zambales in April with a total of 18 deaths; a magnitude 6.5 that occurred in Eastern Samar on the same month; magnitudes 5.4 and 5.9 earthquakes that occurred in July in Itbayat, Batanes which resulted in a total of 9 deaths with 1,025 families affected, and now the magnitude 6.6 in Mindanao, ” Legarda said.
“Given these recent disasters, 7.2 magnitude earthquake as described in the MMEIRS is a possibility that we all should be prepared for. We cannot prevent an earthquake from happening, but with the proper preparedness and preventive measures, we can minimize possible casualties and damages,” Legarda added.
Legarda said that other priority steps in earthquake preparedness include the regular conduct of safety drills; establishment of an early warning system for earthquake and tsunami; determining open spaces for safe refuge; and ensuring that back-up systems of vital utilities are in place for speedy recovery and rehabilitation efforts, and a ready evacuation plan in every barangay in the country.
Legarda added: “We cannot predict when an earthquake will occur. Therefore, we must always remain vigilant for more aftershocks and other effects of the temblor.
“As we call for the national government to take the lead in promoting the structural soundness and resilience of buildings and structures, I also urge local government units to take the initiative in strengthening earthquake preparedness measures to ensure that our local communities will not be caught off guard when natural hazards strike.” With PNA