February 7, 2012 – Filipinos ran into the streets seeking higher ground after the quake. An initial tsunami warning was later canceled: Gov. Oel Degamo of Negros Oriental province said around 30 houses were buried in the village of Planas, trapping dozens of people. Mr. Degamo said eight bridges were damaged by the quake, potentially complicating rescue efforts as well as disrupting the local agriculture-driven economy. A series of aftershocks also threatened to worsen the situation.
In nearby Dumaguete City, residents ran out into the streets or hid under tables when the first earthquake struck just before noon. “A few minutes before wrapping up a regular meeting, we felt a strong tremor lasting for about 16 to 30 seconds and we hid under a table,” said Mark Garcia, director of information and publications at the city’s Siliman University. “People in the coastal areas are panicking, and we are still nervous of the tsunami warning even though it was canceled.”
In La Libertad town in Negros Oriental, local police chief inspector Eric Arrol Besario told the Associated Press that an unknown group of people were buried by a landslide. “We’re now getting shovels and chain saws to start a rescue because there were people trapped inside,” Mr. Besario said.
Large waves also washed away five bamboo cottages from a coastal beach resort in the area.
The Philippines lies in the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire,” where earthquakes and volcanoes are common. In addition to seismic activity, the Philippines also has to contend with around 20 typhoons a year, making it one of the world’s most disaster-prone nations.
In recent years, the country has tried to upgrade its disaster-response capabilities, but they are regularly stretched by fresh catastrophes exacerbated by the chronic poverty that afflicts many parts of this country of 100 million people. Many victims of landslides, typhoons and earthquakes live in substandard accommodation, often little more than shacks.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the latest quake was centered 44 miles, or 72 kilometers, north of Dumaguete City at a depth of 29 miles, or 46 kilometers, while Philippine seismologists said the tremor was triggered by movement in an undersea fault in the region. The affected area is about 400 miles, or 650 kilometers, south of the capital, Manila.
In Cebu City, the Philippines’ second largest city, people surged into the grounds of San Carlos University seeking shelter from any possible tsunami. “People were panicked,” said Teresa Camba, a security guard at the college. (Photo Credit AP – Narrative Credit the Wall Street Journal) Note: I reported extensively on the swam of earthquakes that struck the Philippines yesterday.
The Master of Disaster