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(UPDATE 12 - 8:50 a.m., Feb. 7) MANILA, Philippines - The number of casualties continues to rise after a magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck off Negros Monday morning, triggering a tsunami alert, some landslides, collapsed bridges, and panic.
The National Disaster Risk Reducation and Management Council (NDRRMC) on Wednesday morning said it had confirmed 15 deaths as a result of the earthquake. The military, however, said there have been at least 42 fatalities, all in Negros Oriental. Many of the fatalities were children who were hit by falling debris in their schools.
But authorities in the province can only confirm about 10 fatalities from the strong quake that hit the area. Provincial police chief Sr. Supt. Edward Carranza said six people were killed in Guihulngan, one in Jimalalud, two in Tayasan and one in Bais City.
Carranza said 40 people were wounded in Guihulngan while 12 others injured in Jimalalud.
The fatalities were identified as follows:
Guihulngan: Betty Yap Manzano, 62 (hit by debris); Aljun Sabando, 14 (hit by concrete wall of St. Francis High School); Gilbert Evardo, 13 (hit by concrete wall of Magsaysay Elementary School); Maricar Naraco, 37 (hit by debris); Eric Benigay, 7 (hit by concrete wall of Magsaysay Elem. School); and Cherry Pagao, 23 (hit by debris).
Jimalalud: Anafe Estrabella, 12.
Tayasan: Bernadeth Raydan, 9 (hit by concrete fence); Ramon Ganti (landslide).
Bais City: Acebes Palumar (heart attack).
Carranza said 20 houses were destroyed in La Libertad while the Aglipay Church also collaposed.
Col. Francisco Zosimo Patrimonio, commander of the Army's 302nd Brigade, said hardest hit areas in Negros Oriental were in Guihulngan, La Libertad, and Jimalalud. In Barangay Planas in Guihulngan, the military said landslides and collapsed bridges were reported with 29 people still missing. Ten people were also reported killed in Guihulngan.
The military is currently conducting search and rescue operations in Guihulngan.
As of 7:33 p.m., seismologists noted 158 aftershocks, the strongest at 6:10 p.m. with Intensity 6.2 monitored 60 kilometers north, northwest of Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental and 82 km west, northwest of Tagbilaran City, Bohol.
According to News5, Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo said his office is still checking reports that 29 more persons are missing.
Benito Ramos, head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Coordinating Council, identified two of the fatalities.
Nine-year-old Bernadette Raidan was pinned to death after a wall of the Matuog Elementary School collapsed on her during the quake.
Also killed was Anafe Estrabella, 11, who was also pinned by a collapsed wall of a chapel in Barangay Mompong, Jimalalud.
The Phivolcs (Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology) raised to the tsunami alert level to 2 in areas along the coast of Cebu and Negros Island for a couple of hours before lifting it at 2:30 p.m.
"No further reports of unusual sea level changes were received ... hence tsunami alerts have been cancelled," Phivolcs said in an advisory.
Phivolcs earlier raised alert level 2 following the magnitude 6.9 earthquake.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake, which it measured at 6.8, struck at 11:49 a.m. with epicenter located 70 kilometers north of Dumaguete.
The quake was felt as Intensity 7 in Dumaguete City; Intensity 6 in La Carlota City and La Castellana, Negros Occidental;
Intensity 5 in Roxas City, and Dao and Ivisan, Capiz; and Iloilo City;
Intensity 4 in Kalibo, Aklan; San Jose de Buenavista and Pandan, Antique; and Sta. Barbara, Iloilo; Ayungon, Negros Oriental; Sagay, Negros Occidental; and Dipolog City;
Intensity 3 in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte; Legaspi City, Albay; and Carmen, Cagayan de Oro; and
Intensity 2 in Cabid-an, Sorsogon.
Tremors were also felt in Mindanao particularly in the Misamis and Lanao provinces, and in the city of Iligan.
View Strong earthquake rocks Negros in a larger map
All classes in Negros Occidental were suspended, while malls in San Carlos, Kabankalan , and Bacolod were also evacuated.
Between 12 noon and 2 p.m., tsunamis of about one meter were monitored in Negros and Cebu.
Cebu police reported that in Guihulngan City, there were reports of damaged buildings and houses and cracks on the roads. In Jimalalud, there were also reports of damaged bridges and roads. In La Libertad, a landslide was reported and the three-storey Laturnas Building reportedly collapsed. Five cottages along the sea shore at the Comendador Beach Resort were also wiped out due to strong waves.
In San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, the mall Uni-Top sustained cracks on the wall and glass panes were broken. Some students in Bacolod were also evacuated as classrooms shook.
Reports from Negros Occidental say residents of San Carlos City evacuated to upland barangays after waters receded from shoreline.
Supt. Ranulfo Demiar, Western Visayas regional police operations chief, said the quake was felt at the regional police camp in Iloilo Ciy, forcing policemen to go out of their buildings.
People inside the SM mall located about one kilometer away from the camp reportedly panicked during the quake. Police are now checking on damage to property or casualties, Demiar said.
In Iloilo City, the quake sent residents running outside of establishments for safety.
There were no reports of casualties or damage in Iloilo following the 5.8-magnitude earthquake to date, Governor Arthur Defensor said.
“We have not received reports of damage or casualties at this time,” he said in a phone interview.
Power supply has been restored in the entire province at around 4 p.m., he added.
Defensor said he has instructed the provincial disaster coordinating council to give a regular update on the situation on the municipalities in the province.
Reports said that Iloilo was hit by a 5.8-magnitude earthquake.
The Twitter world was also abuzz with updates from Twitter users in the Visayas.
Immediately after the series of quakes, Department of Health Secretary Enrique Ona directed the health field office units in the affected provinces to quickly respond to the emergency.
“Health teams have been alerted and ordered to validate incident reports, evaluate damage to health facilities, and to assist the victims if necessary,” Ona said in a statement released late Monday.
He advised people to stay away from structures which have been damaged or compromised.
He also urged the injured to seek immediate medical attention at the nearest health centers.
The Philippine Red Cross, meanwhile, assured the public that it is on full alert in the wake of the series of earthquake.
Engr. Bon Mark Uy, Red Cross 143 volunteer coordinator in Negros Occidental, said that based on data gathered by their response team, there were two individuals who died from the earthquake - a child who was struck by falling hollow blocks and the other one, an adult who died in a “sliding accident”.
“Four bridges were damaged and were not passable to heavy vehicles: the Tinayonan, Beterya, Martilo bridges in La Libertad and Dayoyo bridge in Jimalulud. A one-storey building in the area also collapsed with two persons reportedly trapped inside,” Uy said.
“Efforts are being done to extricate the victims,” Uy assured.
Following also the advice of the DOH chief earlier, Uy said patients from the district hospital in the municipality of Guinhulngan were evacuated to safer places.
PRC chairman Richard Gordon has deployed emergency response teams and life saving equipment including rescue equipment, ambulances, generator sets and tower lights in the affected areas.
Gordon also directed all nearby chapters to be on standby and be ready for deployment any time.
PRC secretary general Gwendolyn Pang alerted the PRC Blood Bank Services to ensure that Red Cross blood banks have enough supply of blood in their storage.
“[Our] PRC operation center at national headquarters is closely monitoring the situation,” Pang assured.
As level 2 tsunami alert was raised, residents of Negros, Cebu, Iloilo and other affected areas were told to stay away from the shorelines and to be on alert for unusual waves.
Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas has ordered Coast Guard Chief Edmund Tan to prevent fishermen from going out to sea for the duration of the alert.
Police chief Nicanor Bartolome instructed his people in Western and Central Visayas to help enforce the ban from the shoreline, and to ensure the maintenance of peace and order while the alert is ongoing.
Local police were directed to establish information and communication systems to sound off tsunami warnings in affected areas. Units in other provinces were also alerted for possible assistance.
Social welfare and development personnel were on standby to lend support and relief to affected citizens.
Air flights normal
According to an advisory from the Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific, all their flights in Visayas and Mindanao were not affected by the earthquake.
"All PAL flights in the Visayas and Mindanao are green and go. The quake did not cause any damage to airport facilities," it said. - With reports from Likha Miel-Cuevas, InterAksyon.com