PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday ordered the release of P2 billion to aid victims of the strong earthquake that rocked Surigao City on Friday.
Duterte made the announcement as thousands of Surigao City residents sought refuge on the streets as aftershocks hit the region two days after the 6.7-magnitude quake that killed six people.
The quake struck Surigao and nearby areas of Mindanao island late Friday, injuring 202, with more than a thousand homes destroyed or damaged, according to officials.
The state seismology office recorded 130 weaker quakes in Surigao, a city of 152,000 people, and in the predominantly agricultural region around it since the quake struck, though there were no additional reports of casualties or damage.
Duterte extended his sympathies to the victims and apologized for the initial delay of government aid because of the closure of the Surigao airport and damage to roads caused by the earthquake, the strongest to hit Surigao since 1989.
The P2-billion aid will go to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), “for them to purchase medicines for people who sustained trauma and other injuries,” said Duterte, who delivered the speech in the Visayan language.
The President was accompanied by a military transport plane loaded with generator sets, solar lamps, high-energy biscuits, mosquito nets and blankets for the displaced residents, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
Duterte likened the tragedy to the onslaught of Typhoon “Yolanda” in Tacloban, Leyte in 2013 that left at least 6,000 people dead.
But the Surigaonons are a good and resilient people, the President said.
The President again apologized that he couldn’t stay long in the city because of inclement weather, but vowed to return to ensure that government aid would reach all affected areas.
Power restored in Surigao
The NDRRMC said on Sunday a total of 1,034 families or 5,170 people were affected in 54 barangays (villages) in Surigao City.
Some of the more than 200 injured were confined in Caraga Region Hospital, Surigao Medical Center and Malimono District Hospital. The Caraga Region Hospital however was damaged by the tremor.
Romina Marasigan, NDRRMC spokeswoman, said 1,034 houses were damaged, 155 of which were destroyed.
“The people are terrified about the aftershocks,” Marasigan told reporters.
The NDRRMC is focusing on the assessment of structures and the extent of damage “so that we will know how to move towards early recovery at this point,” she added.
Power was restored in Surigao City on Saturday, but the municipalities of San Francisco, Malimono, Placer, Sison and Tagana-an were still without electricity.
There were also problems in water systems in San Francisco, Malimono, Mainit and Surigao City.
The Department of Education (DepEd) said the initial damage to schools was estimated at P7.6 million.
Education Undersecretary Jesus Mateo said Secretary Leonor Briones and a team of DepEd personnel went with the President’s contingent to access the damage.
“The assessment is still on going. But based on the school visits of the secretary, the cost of damage is at P7.6 million,” Mateo said.
The Department of Transportation also inspected the damaged Surigao airport, while the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines sent engineers to fast-track repairs. The airport was closed to give way to repairs.
No airport staff was injured but the tower, airport terminal and other facilities suffered minimal damage.
The Philippine Coast Guard dispatched a search-and-rescue vessel from Cebu to deliver clean drinking water to Surigao.
Around 150 coast guard personnel were also sent to augment government rescue operations.
Mining firms operating in Surigao joined relief and rescue operations, the Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association said over the weekend.
Among these mining companies were Greenstone Resources Corp, which sent civil engineers to help in integrity assessment of buildings in the city and deployed fire trucks and ambulances; Silangan Mindanao Mining which deployed fire trucks and first-aid teams; and Platinum Group Metals Corp., which deployed rescuers and drones to help in real-time assessment. Others were on standby and ready for deployment.
The Chamber of Mines of the Philippines said member-companies immediately pooled their resources to help in the rescue and relief efforts.
Among the miners in the area, Nickel Asia Corp. reported that no mineworker or resident in their host communities perished or were hurt during the earthquake. It also reported zero damage in its facilities.
WITH FERNAN MARASIGAN, JAMES KONSTANTIN GALVEZ AND FRANCIS EARL A. CUETO