Philippines starts repairing damage in quake-hit areas

Villagers in Surigao collecting emergency relief items yesterday. The authorities have placed Surigao City under a state of emergency to hasten relief efforts.
Villagers in Surigao collecting emergency relief items yesterday. The authorities have placed Surigao City under a state of emergency to hasten relief efforts.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

SURIGAO (Philippines) • The Philippine authorities have begun restoring the water supply and electricity in the areas hit by a powerful earthquake that killed six people.

President Rodrigo Duterte visited the affected areas in Surigao City yesterday, and pledged that the government would provide two billion Philippine pesos (S$57 million) in assistance.

Mr Carlos Egay, vice-governor of Surigao del Norte province, said life appeared to be returning to normal after last Friday's 6.5-magnitude earthquake that rocked Surigao and the nearby areas of Mindanao island in the south of the country.

About 200 people were injured and more than a thousand homes were destroyed or damaged, officials said. There were several aftershocks in the region since Friday.

Thousands of residents, whose homes were destroyed or damaged by the tremors, were forced to seek refuge on the streets for a second night last Saturday.

"More than 100 aftershocks have been recorded since Friday - some noticeable, and some, not too much. Hopefully, they will not result in any more damage," Mr Egay said yesterday in a phone interview with Reuters news agency.

Since last Friday's earthquake, the state seismology office recorded 130 minor tremors in Surigao, a city of 152,000 people, and in the largely agricultural region around it.

However, there were no additional reports of casualties or damage.

Mr Egay said residents who rushed to higher ground amid fears of a tsunami have also returned to their homes.

He added that last Friday's earthquake, the strongest to hit the city since 1879, caused at least 400 million pesos in damage to schools, bridges, homes, hotels, and other public infrastructure.

The total cost of the damage is sure to rise, he said, as the authorities have yet to assess the damage to the airport, which remains shut, with cracks in the runway.

The authorities have placed Surigao City under a state of emergency to hasten relief efforts.

During his visit yesterday, Mr Duterte inspected emergency response efforts, which have shifted to relief and rehabilitation after the last of the dead and injured were pulled out of the debris, officials said.

He was accompanied by a military transport plane loaded with generator sets, solar-powered lamps, high-energy biscuits, mosquito nets and blankets for the displaced residents, said Ms Romina Marasigan, a spokesman for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The Philippines is hit by an average of five earthquakes daily - most of them undetectable - because the country is located within the so-called "Ring of Fire".

This is a vast region in the Pacific where many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are known to occur.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2017, with the headline 'Philippines starts repairing damage in quake-hit areas'. Print Edition | Subscribe