By Vince Angelo C. Ferreras Reporter

A MAGNITUDE 6.5 earthquake rattled parts of Visayas on Tuesday, reported the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) which also cited temblors in Southern Luzon down to Mindanao.

Phivolcs said it located the quake’s epicenter at 9 kilometers northwest of San Julian, Eastern Samar, with a depth of 63 kilometers below the ground. Intensity 5 was felt in Tacloban City; Catbalogan City, Samar; Gen. MacArthur, Salcedo and Guiuan, Eastern Samar; Naval, Biliran; Catarman, Northern Samar; and Palo and Peastrana, Leyte.

Intensity 4 was reported in Abuyog, Hilongos, Javier, Capoocan, Julieta, Baybay, Barogo, Jaro, MacArthur, Matalum, Villaba, Leyte; San Francisco, Southern Leyte; Bislig City, Surigao del Sur; Iloilo City; Naga City; Sorsogon City; Panganiban, Catanduanes.

Intensity 3 was reported in Binalbagan, Negros Occidental; Cabalian, Southern Leyte; Dimasalang, Masbate; and Butuan City and Cabadbaran City in Agusan del Norte.

Intensity 2 was reported in Bago City and Bacolod City in Negros Occidental.

Phivolcs also recorded Intensity 4 in Masbate City in Masbate and Legazpi City in Albay, Intensity 3 in Iriga City in Camarines Sur; Ormoc City, Leyte; Argao City, Cebu; Bogo City, Cebu; and Surigao City in Surigao del Norte; instrumental Intensity 2 in Passi City, Iloilo; Malinao, Aklan; Roxas City and Jamindan in Capiz; Talibon, Bohol; San Francisco, Cebu; Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental; Mulanay, Quezon; Bago City, Negros Occidental; and Daet, Camarines Norte; and instrumental Intensity 1 in Tapaz, Capiz; Sipocot, Camarines Sur; Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu and La Carlota City in Negros Occidental.

Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Region VIII said four were reported injured in Catarman, Northern Samar.

“Yung isa ay nag-panic siguro, then tumalon. Actually, hindi naman kataasan ang mga ano, buildings, kaya minor lang, dito ‘yan sa Northern Samar. And the others ay mukhang nahulugan ng mga ibang bagay so minor lang talaga,” said OCD Region VIII director Henry M. Torres. (One could have panicked and jumped from the building. Actually, the buildings in Northern Samar are not that tall. While the others, objects could have dropped on them so this is just considered minor).

In Pampanga, where President Rodrigo R. Duterte is holding a briefing with officials as of this reporting, Governor Lilia G. Pineda has declared the province under a state of calamity following the 6.1-magnitude earthquake that jolted it on Monday afternoon.

“Ang napag-usapan ng mga lawyer natin, legal counsel, second district lang kasing wala kasing report na mga damages ang mga third, fourth, and first district,” Ms. Pineda told reporters. (What was discussed with our lawyers is only the second district, because there are no reports yet on the damage in the third, fourth, and first district).

Ms. Pineda said rescue operations in the rubble at Chuzon Supermarket in Porac town are still ongoing since Monday night.

“Nandun pa rin po ‘yung mga nagre-rescue, may [rescue] dog kasi sila, may tinatahulan pa rin ‘yung dog, meron pa rin naka-trap sa building. Simula gabi, magdamag, hanggang ngayon,” she said in a phone interview with BusinessWorld on Tuesday. (Rescuers are still there since last night and the rescue dog can still sense presence of life trapped inside the collapsed building).

She also cited the assistance of the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

She added: “Tutulungan namin sila sa mga nag-collapse nilang mga bahay sa mga barangay.… ‘Yung mga nawalan ng bahay, susustentuhan namin sila ng pagkain, ng mga relief nila hanggang sa mabuo ‘yung mga bahay nila. Tapos tutulungan namin ‘yung mga families ng mga breadwinners na namatay dun sa building.” (We will help everyone whose houses have collapsed…we will provide food and other relief goods until their homes will be rebuilt. Also, we will provide assistance to the families of breadwinners who died in the collapse of the building).

For her part, Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who represents this province’s second district in the House of Representatives, told reporters: “Priority is to complete the rescue that is happening, and then we have to take care of those who have been rescued. We have to attend to their medical needs. Those who died, we have to attend to their funeral requirements. Those whose houses were destroyed and went to flee the earthquake, they have to be fed. So we are in the rescue and relief stage right now.”

As of this reporting, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported a total of 16 dead, 81 injured, and 14 missing in Region III (Central Luzon). Of the 16, five were casualties at Chuzon Supermarket, seven from different barangays in Porac, two from Lubao, one from Angeles, and one from San Marcelino.

In a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Phivolcs Senior Science Research Specialist Rhommel N. Grutas said, “Yung kahapon po ay local fault du’n sa may Zambales, Pampanga area. Ito po ngayon ay hindi related doon, kasi ito po ay trends related, subduction zone po siya. So nanggaling ‘yung Philippine sea plate, binabangga ‘yung ating Philippine archipelago.” (What happened [On Monday] originated from the local fault in the Zambales and Pampanga area. The earthquake today is not related to that. This one is trends-related, it came from a subduction zone. The Philippine Sea Plate moved against our archipelago.)

Mr. Grutas noted that earthquakes happen everyday: “Normal po ito, araw-araw po nakaka-record tayo ng earthquake, ito nga lang po ay may intensity 6, at may 5, 4 sa ating kalupaan.” (This is just normal, we experience earthquakes everyday. This one is just at intensity 6 and intensity 5 or 4 in other parts of the country).

Phivolcs also said 495 aftershocks were recorded after the Luzon quake while 21 aftershocks were recorded from Visayas.

For its part, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) has indefinitely prohibited its employees at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) from taking leaves to assure enough manpower to accommodate passengers of flights that have been diverted to Manila from Clark International Airport (CIA).

Meanwhile, senators on Tuesday called for measures to equip the government and the public in times of disasters.

“We should improve our building standards to withstand stronger earthquakes as well considering we are within the ring of fire,” Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto told reporters over phone message, Tuesday.

Senator Juan Edgardo M. Angara said in a statement, “This strong earthquake reminds us of the urgency to create a single, independent and permanent agency devoted to disaster management and resilience.” — with Arjay L. Balinbin, Vann Marlo M. Villegas, and Charmaine A. Tadalan