From a community that experienced how it was like to be a victim of a devastating earthquake, Cebuanos must now extend a helping hand to the quake victims in Surigao City and its neighboring areas.
And like a good Samaritan, the Archdiocese of Cebu will extend help to the victims of Friday night’s 6.7-magnitude earthquake in Surigao that killed at least six people and injured over 120 others; and destroyed or damaged infrastructure, roads, bridges and homes that forced affected residents into evacuation centers.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma appealed for donations in cash and in kind coursed through the different parishes and church-based organizations.
“This is part of the mystery of life. And in times like this, may our trust in God strengthen us. Let us show our solidarity and support to our brothers and sisters,” he said in an interview after he celebrated Mass to mark the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes in Barangay Punta Princesa, Cebu City, yesterday.
The prelate called on all parish priests, team moderators and leaders of lay movements to take the lead in gathering donations for victims of the Intensity 6 earthquake that rocked Surigao and nearby provinces.
“I commissioned our (Cebu) Caritas to gather or solicit donations as well as our parishes to have second collections intended for the victims of the Surigao earthquake as soon as possible,” he said.
Palma likewise extended his “prayers of solidarity … to everyone affected by the earthquake especially those whose loved ones died.”
Before Palma’s appeal for help, Mandaue City has already decided to extend help to Surigao.
As an expression of sympathy to victims of the Surigao quake, the Mandaue City government is sending financial aid to help the local government unit and the families of those affected by the earthquake.
“Speechless at the devastation in Surigao City due to the earthquake. It brought back the terrible memories of our own earthquake a few years back,” said Mandaue City Mayor Luigi Quisumbing in a Facebook post on Saturday morning, referring to the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that hit Cebu and Bohol in October 2013.
“The City of Mandaue condoles with our brothers and sisters in Surigao City and we are with you as you begin the road to recovery,” said Quisumbing.
“Vice Mayor Carlo and I have agreed to send financial assistance as our small gesture of solidarity for their reconstruction effort,” added Quisumbing in his post.
Fortuna, reached by phone, said the city will allocate at least P100,000 to help Surigao City recover from the earthquake.
He said Quisumbing was also in the process of assessing if there was a need for the city to send city disaster personnel to help in ongoing rescue operations in Surigao City.
Last Friday’s 10:03 p.m. quake awakened residents from sleep in Surigao del Norte province, sending hundreds to flee their homes.
The quake epicenter was 14 kilometers (8 miles) northwest of Surigao City at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles), said Renato Solidum of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs).
Nearly 100 aftershocks have been felt up to 6 p.m. Saturday, officials said.
Evacuation centers accommodated wary residents overnight; but many have returned home by Saturday, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said, adding officials were continuing to assess the damage in Surigao City and outlying towns.
The DSWD in Central Visayas (DSWD-7) has, meanwhile, placed 30,000 family food packs on standby in case help will be needed for the earthquake victims.
“We are still waiting for specific request (from the DSWD in Caraga region) because we also need to know what specific needs that we have to extend to the victims,” DSWD-7 Director Ma. Evelyn Macapobre told Cebu Daily News.
One family food pack contains six kilos of rice, four cans of sardines, four cans of corned beef and six sachets of coffee.
DSWD-7 also has a stock of 3,000 nonfood items, with each pack containing dinner wares, hygiene kit and a sleeping kit.
“Our standard protocol also is that the neighboring regions will automatically extend assistance in case of disasters. For Caraga, the neighboring regions are Northern Mindanao (Region 10) and Davao (Region 11),” she added.
The DSWD has announced on its website that it has activated its disaster teams in Caraga region to assist local government units affected by the quake.
A total of 28 barangays in Surigao City and the towns of Mainit, San Francisco and Sison were affected by the quake, the DSWD said.
The DSWD reported that as of 7 p.m. on Saturday, they had listed seven houses destroyed by the quake while 318 others were partially damaged.
Solidum said the quake was set off by movement in a segment of the Philippine fault, which sits in the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where quakes and volcanoes are common.
At least six people were killed, some after being hit by falling debris and concrete walls, provincial disaster response official Gilbert Gonzales said. At least 126 others were injured in Surigao City, about 700 kilometers (430 miles) southeast of Manila.
TV footage showed the facade of a number of buildings heavily cracked, their glass windows shattered with canopies and debris falling on parked cars on the street below. Rescuers in one building were trying to break a collapsed concrete slab to check if there were people pinned underneath.
Roads had visible cracks in the coastal city, and a bridge collapsed in an outlying town. Rescue teams were checking for possible casualties in a village called Poknoy in the city of 140,500 people, officials said.
The city’s airport was temporarily closed due to deep cracks in the runway, aviation officials said. A major port in Lipata district was also briefly closed while engineers checked the stability of an access road, Gonzales said.
Fr. Jonas Mejares, the rector of the Basilica del Sto. Niño when the powerful 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit the provinces of Cebu and Bohol in 2013, said it was extremely difficult to be a victim of a strong quake.
“As human beings, the feeling of so much fear is inevitable. But we lean on God. On the afternoon of that day when the strong earthquake hit Cebu, people went to the basilica to attend Mass. And that gave them courage to face the challenges of life,” he told Cebu Daily News.
At least 200 people died in the Oct. 15, 2013 quake — the strongest to hit Cebu and Bohol in recent years.
The centuries-old belfry of the Basilica crumbled, and many structures in Cebu were ruined.
It was a double whammy for Mejares who, aside from facing the challenge to restore the Basilica, also grieved for the death of his uncle in Loon town, Bohol, who died when the Our Lady of Light parish collapsed during the quake.
“When these incidents happen, we are reminded that we are just pilgrims on earth. Everything will pass and we return to God,” he said.
Cebu City Councilor Dave Tumulak, meanwhile, said the city government was yet to decide whether or not it would send aid to Surigao City.
Nagiel Bañacia, head of the Cebu City’s Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CCDRRMO) and a native of Surigao City, posted on Facebook that his own family was also affected by the quake.
He said his sister was injured when a cabinet fell on her during the earthquake; but his two nieces, his parents and siblings were unharmed. However, the houses of an aunt and an uncle were damaged.
Bañacia, who was in Taiwan with Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, said an earthquake was also felt in Kaoshiung at about 1:14 a.m. on Saturday.
“We experienced strong earthquake here too. The earth moved at about 1:14 am. I was with Mayor Tomas Osmeña with other delegates at the 42nd floor of the hotel. It was quite scary,” said Bañacia in his Facebook post./with reports from Inquirer.net