Sunday, September 2, 2012

Phivolcs warns of earthquake aftershocks

MANILA, Philippines – More aftershocks are expected for weeks and possibly months after the magnitude 7.6 earthquake that hit Eastern Samar last Friday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said yesterday.
Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said the country was hit by a total of 271 aftershocks as of 8 a.m. yesterday, but most of the tremors were unfelt.
“Most of the aftershocks were small events and are very far. We expect aftershocks to last for weeks or more than a month and this is normal after large quakes,” Solidum explained.
The magnitude 7.6 quake that rocked Eastern Visayas at 8:47 p.m. on Friday left one person dead and P12.8 million in damage to public infrastructure in the region.
Solidum said it was the strongest quake felt in the area in the last 100 years.
National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director Benito Ramos said about 200,000 persons have been affected by the tremor, which was felt in the Visayas and Mindanao Friday night.
Ramos said the figure includes those who were evacuated to temporary shelters, and those whose houses were damaged.
Detailed figures remain unavailable as of yesterday as the field units of NDRRMC were still gathering data in their respective areas.
Eastern Visayas covers the provinces of Biliran, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Samar, Northern Samar and Southern Leyte.
The figure does not include the damaged properties in Cagayan de Oro, Surigao and Agusan provinces and Davao City.
Ramos said the figure can still go up as the regional civil defense offices are still assessing the damage in their areas.
“The damage caused by the earthquake is minimal. The local governments also responded well to the warnings,” Ramos said.
Apart from the lone fatality, there seemed to be no other casualties from the earthquake, Malacañang said.
“There was no increase in the number of casualties apart from what was reported in Cagayan de Oro City and one that was injured,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.
The powerful earthquake forced hundreds in coastal communities to flee to higher ground due to threats of tsunami.
“From all accounts, it looks like minimal – we were fortunate that the damage was minimal,” she said.
Valte said the partially-damaged Buyayawan and Barangay Casuroy bridges in Mercedes and San Julian – both in eastern Samar – are now passable to all types of vehicles.
Power has also been restored in the area, Valte added.
The Department of Public Works and Highways in the Bicol region reported that assessments have been made and so far, there were “no reported damages” to roads and infrastructure.
The NDRRMC yesterday downgraded its alert status to blue from red but is continuously monitoring the situation in the affected areas.
A blue alert places half of disaster management personnel on standby. A red alert, which covers all NDRRMC personnel, was raised last Friday.
Valte also took the opportunity to echo the call of experts to remind the public that disaster preparedness starts at home, and that the government is doing everything it can to mitigate the effects of such calamities.
“Let us not let our guard down when it comes to disaster preparedness and let’s make sure that all our families are aware and are knowledgeable on what to do in times of calamities,” she said.
The news of the earthquake and the corresponding tsunami alert also caused the sudden rush of online traffic at the Phivolcs website (www.phivolcs.dost.gov.ph), causing the website to bog down, particularly between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.
“Between 9 and 10 in the evening we recorded 68, 000 hits. That’s too many,” he said.
Netizens expressed frustration over Phivolcs’ online absence after the Aug. 31 tremor.
“Most of the people living near the shorelines have no Twitter,” Solidum said, adding that they immediately relayed the tsunami warning to the public through the Office of the Civil Defense and other concerned authorities.

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