Strong quake causes panic in Tacloban

TACLOBAN CITY — The magnitude 6.5 earthquake that rocked Eastern Visayas has caused panic among residents traumatized by sea level rise when Super Typhoon Yolanda struck more than five years ago.

It was like an exodus in the regional capital Tuesday afternoon as major business establishments, schools, and offices suspended their operations, sending people to streets eager to go home as early as 1:40 p.m. after a an Intensity 5 tremor hit this city. 

Col. Michael David, city police director, said people’s reaction was normal since they were traumatized by the super typhoon’s surges that killed over 2,000 people here in 2013.

“We have been going around telling people that there’s no tsunami alert since almost everyone is in panic,” David told Philippine News Agency (PNA).

The tsunami scare has caused traffic congestion in the city’s major thoroughfares. The city’s over 200,000 population increases five times during daytime.

Some residents in coastal areas moved to higher grounds carrying children and their valuables.

Visible cracks at the Asian Development Foundation College building in this city were seen after the quake, but school president Edward Chua said all the 1,000 students inside the five-story building were safely evacuated.

“The structure is safe, but the building will be closed for two days for further safety checks and secure the things of students,” Chua said.

The magnitude 6.5 earthquake rocked Eastern Samar 1:37 p.m. on Tuesday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said.

The quake of tectonic origin, with a depth of 17 kilometers, struck 19 kilometers northwest of the coastal town of San Julian, located 163 kilometers northeast of Tacloban.

In San Julian, Eastern Samar, the church built in 18th century sustained cracks while the statue of St. Pascual inside the church was toppled. No reports of casualties and inspections are still ongoing, according to a Facebook post of the San Julian local government.

A portion of a provincial road sustained cracks in San Julian. Work in the local government was suspended as Mayor Dennis Estaron led an inspection after the tremor.

The temblor was felt in the following areas: Intensity 6 — San Julian, Eastern Samar; Intensity 5 — Tacloban City; Catbalogan City, Samar; Gen. Mc Arthur, Salcedo and Guiuan Eastern Samar; Naval, Biliran; Catarman, Northern Samar; and Palo and Pastrana, Leyte; Intensity 4 — 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; and Panganiban, Catanduanes; Intensity 3 — Binalbagan, Negros Occidental; Cabalian, Southern Leyte; Dimasalang, Masbate; Butuan City; and Cabadbaran City; and Intensity 2 0– Bago City; and Bacolod City.

 Phivolcs issued an advisory that there was no tsunami threat. Experts said that only earthquakes with a magnitude of 7.5 and higher can generate big waves.

But the advisory has failed to calm down the public as netizens posted photos of lower sea level, one of the early signs of a tsunami. The state weather bureau said the phenomenon is normal due to low tide.

In Pinabacdao, Samar, a passenger bus fell to the roadside after the driver suffered dizziness due to the ground shaking, passengers told PNA. No one was hurt in this accident.

The Department of Public Works and Highways reported that some roads and bridges in Eastern Samar sustained cracks, but all road sections are passable.

Power interruptions hit Eastern Samar, Northern Samar and some parts of Samar provinces as ground shaking damaged transmission facilities, according to the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines. Sarwell Meniano / PNA –