Philippines starts to repair damage in quake-hit southern province Surigao

Filipino villagers collect potable water in the earthquake-hit city of Surigao, Surigao del Norte province, Philippines, on Feb 12, 2017.
Filipino villagers collect potable water in the earthquake-hit city of Surigao, Surigao del Norte province, Philippines, on Feb 12, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

SURIGAO, Philippines (REUTERS, AFP) - Philippine authorities have begun to restore electricity and water supply to areas hit by a powerful earthquake in the south that killed six and left thousands of residents huddled on the streets early on Sunday (Feb 12).

The 6.5-magnitude quake struck Surigao and nearby areas of Mindanao island late Friday also injured more than 200 others, with more than a thousand homes destroyed or damaged, according to officials.

People who had fled their damaged homes wrapped themselves in blankets and sacks for a second night as they slept side by side on the pavement on Saturday, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

The state seismology office in Manila said it had recorded 130 weaker quakes in Surigao, a city of 152,000 people, and in the predominantly agricultural region around it since the quake struck.

However authorities said there were no reports of further casualties or damage.

President Rodrigo Duterte visited affected areas on Sunday in Surigao City and, according to ABS CBN online news, pledged the government would give 2 billion Philippine pesos (US$40 million) in assistance.  

Carlos Egay, vice governor of Surigao del Norte province, said life appeared to be returning to normal after the 6.7 earthquake that rocked Surigao City on Friday night.

Residents who rushed to higher ground amid fears of a tsunami have returned to their homes, he said.

“More than 100 aftershocks have been recorded since Friday, some noticeable, some not too much. Hopefully, they will not result in any more damage,” Egay told Reuters by telephone on Sunday.  

Friday’s earthquake, the city’s strongest since one in 1879, caused at least 400 million pesos (US$8 million) in damage to schools, bridges, homes, hotels, and other infrastructure, Egay said.  

The total is sure to rise, he said, as authorities have yet to assess the of damage to the still-shut airport, where the runaway has cracks.  

Some miners in the nickel-rich province, including top Philippine producer Nickel Asia Corp, reported no damage to their facilities, according to the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines.  

The Philippines is on the geologically active Pacific Ring of Fire and experiences frequent earthquakes.

Early on Sunday, long lines of people carrying pails and jugs queued for water rations supplied by fire trucks after the quake cut off tap water supply.

"We're still being hit by aftershocks, and as of now we do not have tap water supply. The people are suffering," provincial information officer Mary Escalante told ABS-CBN television in an interview.

"Buildings that suffered structural damage have been closed," she said, adding some schools and gyms that were meant to serve as evacuation centres were among those damaged by the quake.

The quake also damaged bridges and roads and knocked out the power supply, though electricity was restored in most of Surigao on Saturday.

An average of five earthquakes, most of them undetectable except through instruments, hit daily across the Philippines, which lies on the so-called Ring of Fire, a vast Pacific Ocean region where many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.

The last lethal quake that hit the country measured 7.1-magnitude. It left over 220 people dead and destroyed historic churches when it struck the central islands in October 2013.