Quake prompts mayor’s order

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Shaky start to holy week. Court workers, lawyers and their clients step out of the Quimonda building after the M4.9 quake that struck at 9:47 a.m. Cebu’s courtrooms have been temporarily housed in the building since the M7.2 quake that struck last Oct. 15, 2013 damaged large parts of the Palace of Justice.  (Sun.Star Foto/Flornisa Marie M. Gitgano)


A QUAKE that struck minutes before 10 a.m. yesterday prompted Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama to order the faster construction of emergency exits in public schools.

It was fortunate, Rama said, that most schools were no longer holding classes when the earthquake occurred.

While no major damage was reported, the magnitude 4.9 quake compelled Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III to cancel work yesterday afternoon, so employees could be safe and check on their families.

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The quake struck at 9:47 a.m. and its epicenter was located 12 kilometers southeast of Buenavista, Bohol, said the Philippine Institute for Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) 7 in Lapu-Lapu City.

“I asked Raddy (Diola, head of the Local School Board) paspasi na na atong mga exits kay murag kuwang kaayo sa paspas (to get those school exits done fast),” said Rama. He referred to a P22-million project that City Hall started as a result of the M7.2 quake that hit Bohol and Cebu some 17 months ago.

Officials of the Provincial Engineering Office (PEO) and Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) immediately inspected the Capitol main building and legislative building after yesterday’s quake.

Calm, orderly

“There was an instruction from the PDRRMO and PEO and (it was) relayed to the security guards to let everyone out pending completion of the inspection,” said Provincial Information Officer Ethel Natera.

No damage was recorded.

Work in Cebu’s courtrooms and prosecution offices also temporarily stopped after the tremors.

Judge Soliver Peras, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) executive judge in Cebu City, said all the hearings were suspended.

“There might be further aftershocks and I don’t want to risk the safety and the lives of court employees and litigants here in Quimonda,” Judge Peras told reporters.

Courtrooms have been temporarily housed in the Quimonda building in Cebu City’s North Reclamation Area, after the October 2013 quake forced officials to abandon most of the Palace of Justice behind the Provincial Capitol.

Judges, employees, lawyers and their clients stepped out of the Quimonda building after the shaking subsided.

Intensities

No one panicked, said Atty. Jeoffrey Joaquino, head of the RTC-Office of the Clerk of Court.

After everyone left the building, a service vehicle of the Cebu City Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, with detainees inside, left the area.

Provincial Prosecutor Pepita Jane Petralba said she texted Department of Justice Assistant Secretary Guillermo Sy about the tremors and requested for an engineer to inspect the Palace of Justice.

Acting Cebu City Prosecutor Maria Luisa Ratilla said they let employees go home in case of aftershocks. The Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office is located on the ground floor of what used to be Cebu’s main courthouse.

Rolando Montañez of the Phivolcs 7 in Lapu-Lapu City said the earthquake was tectonic in nature, which means it was caused by the movement of a fault.

Montañez recorded Intensity 5 or a strong tremor in the cities of Mandaue and Cebu, and the towns of San Miguel and Sagbayan in Bohol.

In areas under Intensity 5, the tremor is felt by most people indoors and outdoors, and awakens many sleeping people.

Phivolcs 7 registered Intensity 4 or a moderately strong tremor in Lapu-Lapu City and several towns in Bohol.

Inspections

Intensity 2 or a slightly felt earthquake was registered in Danao City and Argao town. San Francisco, Camotes felt Intensity 1 tremor or a scarcely perceptible one.

For about an hour, work in the Cebu City Hall was interrupted after all employees moved out of the executive and legislative buildings.

It was only after the City’s engineers inspected and cleared the facilities from any damage that the operations resumed.

After the October 2013 quake, the City wanted to install steel stairways in public school buildings that are three to four storeys to ensure the immediate and safe evacuation of students and teachers during emergencies.

Asked about the matter, Diola said the City is constructing 70 emergency exits in 40 school sites.

Of the number, he disclosed that 30 emergency exits have been completed while 15 will be finished next week.

Work has just started on 25 emergency exits, he said, considering that the bidding process took time. They will be completed by the first week of May.

No damage

Rama said that yesterday’s quake validated the decision to demolish the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC), a move that has been questioned by some members of the City Council.

Kanang nahitabo ron, sus manguros ta. Hala, ipaatubang na sa mga maayong laki sa konseho. Morag maayong laki pa na sila sa mga civil engineer (Let’s be thankful nothing worse happened. Let the bright boys in the council consider that). The civil engineer said that retrofitting cannot be a guarantee. Therefore, it was decided, instead of retrofitting, build a new one (hospital). Now, I do not know if this earthquake will not give them a lesson,” he said.

The mayor said it would have been dangerous for the patients if the CCMC, which sustained heavy damage during the 2013 earthquake, had only been retrofitted.

In Talisay City, Mayor Johnny delos Reyes also suspended work in the City Hall and the few remaining classes in all public schools yesterday afternoon.

The earthquake did not cause any major damage in the cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu.

Apart from health center that sustained a crack, no other damage was reported to the Mandaue City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO).

Prepare

Felix Suico, head of CDRRMO, said he also received no report of injuries. Cubacub Barangay Captain Almario Bihag told him the earthquake caused a hairline crack on their health center. Suico said he will send a team to evaluate the crack.

Andy Berame, deputy action officer of the City Disaster Management Office, said the city engineer has been instructed to inspect government buildings in the city.

“So far, we can say, the earthquake had no significant impact,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

Mayor Jonas Cortes said the earthquake highlights yet again the need to be prepared for disasters.

“I’d like the Department of Education to include disaster preparedness in the curriculum,” he said. Cortes was in a gym in Barangay Looc along with other city officials when the earthquake struck.

The tremor interrupted the City’s turnover of a speed boat to the Mandaue City Bantay Dagat Association.

Cortes and other officials, including Suico, calmly walked out of the gym seconds after the earthquake. They waited for about 10 minutes before re-entering the gym.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 31, 2015.

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