Surgeons are planning to save lives on open-air operating tables in a hospital carpark on Thursday as rescuers
struggled to help isolated survivors of a powerful earthquake in Central Visayas, which has claimed at least 163 lives.
Road access to the worst-hit towns in Bohol remained cut two days after the 7.2-magnitude quake destroyed buildings and triggered landslides that engulfed homes and highways, regional civil defense chief Minda Morante said.
“I hope the people will understand. While we want to bring aid to them, our main adversary is accessibility,” Morante said. “We acknowledge that there are still gaps in the emergency response. We cannot address the many needs all at the same time.”
In Tagbilaran, the provincial capital, boats were offloading injured victims from other parts of the island, while emergency rations were being loaded onto separate vessels to take to more remote areas, an Agence France-Presse photographer saw.
Patients waited to be operated on in the parking lot of a provincial hospital, their beds sheltered under makeshift tents because the main building was already filled with injured survivors.
“Rescuers took two hours to get me. I lay pinned down next to two young customers who were crushed to death,” said John Espanola, 19, a college student pulled out from a collapsed Internet shop in Sagbayan town with a suspected broken arm.
“I prayed hard. I knew there was a possibility that I would not get out of it alive,” said Espanola, the only survivor in a building collapse that killed five people.
Morante said helicopters were being used to evacuate some of the injured as well as re-supply the isolated towns with emergency food rations.
Tens of thousands of survivors had taken refuge at government-run shelters in public buildings left standing on Bohol, while others were sleeping in tents beside their homes, terrorized by aftershocks, she added.
The search for 21 missing people had focused on the coastal town of Loon and neighboring Antequera, which were close to the earthquake’s epicenter, Bohol police chief Sr. Supt. Dennis Agustin said.
Search and rescue teams had reached those areas by boat and narrow dirt roads over the past 24 hours, he added.
In the upland farming village of Cantamis, about 10 kilometers from Loon, Salvador Bonito waited for help beside a large pile of mud, rocks and debris that was once home to three of his friends.
“Rescuers from our church tried to reach the buried house, but we had to give up because the ground kept shifting due to aftershocks,” Bonito said, adding they had yet to receive outside help.
“We leave it up to God,” he said.
The National Disaster and Risk Reduction and Management Council on Thursday placed initial damage to infrastructures at P180 million.
The agency said that 151 people have been confirmed dead in Bohol, 11 in Cebu and one in Siquijor, while 21 are missing.
More than three million people were affected by the quake.
Tootsie Escobia, information officer of the Bohol provincial government, said more casualties are expected because of landslides triggered by rains and aftershocks.
“There are lot of challenges in Bohol now. The problem now is how to deliver the relief [goods]considering the situation. A lot of road section are impassable, we still experience aftershocks plus these rains that we’re experiencing right now,” Escobia said.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) recorded 1,277 aftershocks, the strongest at magnitude 6 in Tagbilaran.
The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) prepared to deploy staff in Bohol and Cebu.
Aside from giving hot meals to those affected, Red Cross staff and volunteers have been helping to secure the affected areas and provide assistance.
The PRC said it welcomes donations in cash and in kind. Those who wish to help can call (632) 527-0000 local 114/151/165.
AFP and William Depasupil