BANGUED, PHILIPPINES (REUTERS) - President Ferdinand Marcos Jr promised on Thursday (July 28) to help rebuild homes damaged by a powerful earthquake on the main Philippine island of Luzon, as terrified residents camped out in parks and on sidewalks amid hundreds of aftershocks.
The magnitude 7 earthquake struck on Wednesday (July 27) morning, killing at least five people and injuring more than 130.
The quake also damaged scores of houses and other buildings, including centuries-old churches in the tourist city of Vigan, in Ilocos Sur province.
“For the affected and victims, let us make sure we are ready to support them and give them all they need,” Mr Marcos said.
He ordered rescue and relief agencies to prioritise the restoration of power and communication lines in all affected areas.
The streets of Vigan, known for its old Spanish colonial architecture, had been cleared of debris, but shops, hotels and businesses remained closed.
Ilocos Sur Governor Jeremias Singson told TV broadcaster Teleradyo that 460 buildings in the province had been affected.
“Our tourism industry and small business owners were really affected,” Mr Singson said.
After visiting Vigan yesterday, Senator Imee Marcos, the president’s elder sister, said the damage to old churches in the city was “overwhelming”.
Ms Elma Sia, 52, who works at a restaurant, recalled the terror she felt the day the earthquake struck.
“Everything was moving. Our plates were breaking, our lights swaying. We were terrified,” she told Reuters.
“I could hear people shouting from a nearby McDonald’s restaurant. So, people rushed outside to the plaza and started crying out of fear,” she said.
The quake, which hit close to the Marcos family’s political stronghold, also left a trail of destruction in Bangued town in Abra province, which was just 11km from the epicentre.
Residents camped out with their families in shelters because they were too scared to stay at home.
Seismologists have recorded nearly 800 aftershocks since the main quake.
“Aftershocks happen almost every 20 minutes, 15 minutes since yesterday,” said Mr Reggi Tolentino, a restaurant owner in Bangued. “Many slept outside last night, almost every family.”
Some families have been given modular tents to stay in.
Mr Marcos has urged people to wait for their homes to be inspected before moving back.
“We were so scared,” Ms Erlinda Bisares told CNN Philippines. “We didn’t mind our belongings. We just hurried outside. Life is more important."
The Philippines is prone to natural disasters, as it is located on the seismically active Pacific “Ring of Fire”, a band of volcanoes and fault lines that arcs round the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
Earthquakes are frequent and there are an average of 20 typhoons a year, some triggering deadly landslides.
Public Works Secretary Manuel Bonoan told DZBB radio his agency had started to remove debris from main roads in Abra and other districts affected by rockslides during the quake.
But efforts to assess damage to irrigation works were hampered as some roads had yet to be cleared of boulders, the National Irrigation Administration said.
Northern Luzon provinces are among the country’s biggest growers of rice and vegetables.
Mr Ricardo Jalad, administrator of the Office of the Civil Defence, told radio station DZRH some parts of Abra were still without power or water and experiencing communication outages.
The Budget Ministry said the authorities were ready to release funds for disaster relief.