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Zambales tremor: A run-up to Mindanao earthquakes

The threat to end human lives and all living things on earth has now become real even before a series of deadly quakes jolted Mindanao between October and November this year.

On April 22 this year at around 5:11 PM, the Citizens Disaster Response Center (CDRC) reported that an earthquake of tectonic origin struck Western Luzon, with its epicenter 2 kilometers from the town center of Castillejos, Zambales.

ABI staff interviewing the community – Photographed by Marvin Natividad

Immediately after the quake, state agency Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) reported the quake as measuring at magnitude 5.7 on the Richter Scale while the USGS reported it at 6.3. A few hours later, both agencies agreed on a measurement of 6.1.

Aeta community under tarp tents – Photographed by Marvin Natividad

Most parts of Zambales, Pampanga, Tarlac and Pangasinan were plunged into darkness. Power was restored at around 8:00 PM in the three other provinces except for Zambales.

Chuzon Supermarket, a four-storey building in the town of Porac in Pampanga, collapsed during the quake burying an unknown number of people.

As of 10:00 PM of April 22, over 430 aftershocks have been recorded by Phivolcs.

Aeta community members in Porac – Photographed by Marvin Natividad

At 2:02 AM of April 24, a strong magnitude 4.5 aftershock was recorded, with its epicenter 15 kilometers from Castillejos town. Rescue operations at Porac’s Chuzon Supermarket were suspended.

Phivolcs director Renato Solidum explained that Pampanga suffered more damage than Zambales because of soil liquefaction and proximity to the water table.

According to reports from media organizations, Clark International Airport in Clark, Pampanga sustained major damage. Parts of its ceiling fell, resulting in injuries to people lined up at the check-in lobby.

Chuzon Supermarket buried some 40 individuals – Photographed by Justin Dizon

A four-storey supermarket in Porac collapsed burying shoppers and employees. Search and rescue efforts were done. By April 24, the local government unit (LGU) of Pampanga ordered the closure of three other branches, pending review of the grocery chain’s adherence to the building code.

Collapsed walls in Nabuclod Village, Florida – Photographed by Marvin Natividad

 The Zambales Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) on April 23 at 10 AM, reported that 6-year old Waring Serano died due to massive head injuries after being hit by falling rocks in San Marcelino.

Cooking food

On April 23, 2019, staff of CDRN regional center Alay Bayan-Luson Inc. conducted Damage, Needs, and Capacities Assessment (DNCA) in the hinterland villages of Pampanga to check on organized communities there. Majority of the population are indigenous Aeta.

Field staff coordinated with Disaster Preparedness Committee (DPC) members of Camias Village in Porac and learned that four members of the community were killed in a landslide. The bodies of Sheila Serrano, 42 years old, and her son Aries, 9 years old, were recovered by their families in Barrio Kuyokot. Meanwhile, Barrio Patal residents Ondie Garong, 20 years old, and Carlito Abuque, 50 years old, were not so fortunate. Their bodies have not yet been recovered from the collapsed earth and rocks.

Damaged Camias High School – Photographed by Marvin Natividad

On April 24, ABI staff visited nearby Nabuclod Village in Florida, Pampanga, and were met by even worse damage. Four deaths were recorded in the village, with only one recovered from the rubble.

Damaged house vacated by residents – Photographed by Marvin Natividad

Because of the landslides triggered by the earthquake, over a hundred households in San Marcelino were subjected to pre-emptive evacuation. In Porac, more than 600 families are living in open fields and makeshift tents. Hundreds of families were displaced and are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance.

According to CDRC report, at least 20 people were found dead after the quake, 30 missing, seven injured with more than 600 houses damaged.

The Zambales tremor could be considered a run-up or prelude to a series of quakes that jolted Mindanao. 


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