By: Ronnel W. Domingo - 07:30 AM July 08, 2017
Energy officials on Friday said that the power outage in the provinces of Bohol, Samar, Biliran and Southern Leyte and parts of Leyte might last for a week or two after Thursday’s powerful earthquake rocked Eastern Visayas.
The 6.5-magnitude quake near Kananga town and centered northeast of Ormoc City cracked buildings, roads and the city’s airport runway, killing at least two people and injuring scores of others.
The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) said the islands of Cebu, Negros, and Panay “may also suffer occasional” service interruptions because the power plants in Leyte had been shut down for damage assessment.
The Department of Energy said all generating units of the Unified Leyte Geothermal Power complex operated by Energy Development Corp. (EDC), which accounts for close to 600 megawatts, had tripped due to the temblor.
The plants consisted of the 125-MW Upper Mahiao, 232.5-MW Malitbog, 180-MW Mahanagdong and 51-MW Optimization plants. They were providing about 460 megawatts when the quake struck, EDC said in a statement.
“For now, all of the plants are shut down and we are evaluating the damage,” it said.
The P112.5-MW Palinpinon 1 and the 60-MW Palinpinon 2 plants in Negros, operated by EDC unit Green Core Geothermal Inc. also tripped.
Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said the epicenter was near the geothermal fields that feed EDC’s 112.5-MW Tongonan power plant.
Cusi said the power situation in the affected provinces “may still change because of the volatility of the demand by the hour and the loss of the generating capacity of affected geothermal plants.”
NGCP spokesperson Cynthia Alabanza said Tower No. 18 of the 138-kilovolt Ormoc-Tongonan line, which connected the Tongonan power plant to the Ormoc substation, was left leaning by the quake, but workers were able to prevent its high voltage lines from touching the ground.
She said the Ormoc-Tongonan line could still deliver electricity to Ormoc but this could not be done until the Kananga Switchyard was restored by the EDC.
Work to restore power was being hampered by aftershocks, officials said. More than 240 of them had been recorded early on Friday, disaster officials said.
Ormoc officials on Friday appealed for food and water, especially for 20 barangays that were badly affected by the earthquake, which injured 170 people in the city.
Mayor Richard Gomez said generators were needed to run pumps to draw water from wells since river and spring waters had become muddy after the quake.
Bohol residents also complained they had no water.
“We don’t have power. We don’t have water. Where will we turn to?” said Anabelle Magoncia, 45, a resident of Ubujan District.
Bohol Light advised the public to conserve batteries and water.
“Power restoration for Bohol may take long. Please take precautions to prevent fire, conserve water and remove plugs from outlets,” it said.
Gomez said the earthquake triggered landslides in the barangays of Cabaon-an, Cabintan, Tongonan and Gaas.
A 19-year-old mother, Rhissa Rosales, was killed when she was hit by debris in Cabaon-an. Her 6-month-old baby survived.
At least 37 people were wounded and two school buildings in Barangays Lim-au and Rizal were damaged in Kananga.
The lone fatality in Kananga, Jerry Novilla, 42, died when a three-story building collapsed. He was among 60 beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program attending a seminar for prospective security guards.
Among those in the building who survived was Nerissa Superales, 40, a cashier in New Town Grocery, who said presence of mind and prayers kept her alive.
“I was not scared. All I could think about at that time was my family,” she told the Inquirer shortly after she was rescued late on Thursday night.
‘Prayed and prayed’
“I didn’t panic. I just prayed and prayed. I asked God that if this was how my life would end, I would accept it but please take care of my family,” she said.
After hours of digging, workers rescued Superales and five others—Jenny Omolon, 38, her daughter Aina Nicole, 7, and son Sancho, 4; Irene Flores, 31 and Edgar Cabahug, 46.
Omolon and her children were buying groceries while Flores and Cabahug were making deliveries to the store.
Superales said she immediately headed for the door when the shaking began. She was about three meters away when a pile of milk tumbled and the glass door crashed in front of her, plunging the place into darkness.
She could hear Omolon, whom she personally knew from a neighboring barangay.
“It was dark. There was no air. It was so hot,” she said. “I knew she was near but couldn’t see her because it was dark and there was debris between us.”
Superales told Omolon to try to get her phone inside her bag near her cash register. Omolon got hold of it and Superales told her to call her brother, PO2 Rodel Superales, to ask for help.
Superales relayed instructions to rescuers on how to find them through Omolon until they finally dug a hole through the debris and pulled her and the others out of the rubble.
“It was God’s will that I survived. Maybe he still has plans for me. Whatever his plans are, I still don’t know,” said Superales, the eldest of five siblings.
Kananga Mayor Rowena Codilla said an investigation would be conducted to determine why the building, built in 2006, was not able to withstand the quake.
The building housed a grocery and hardware store on the ground floor, a small hotel on the second floor and a roof deck on the third floor.
When the quake struck at 4:06 p.m. on Thursday, most of the people were able to run outside moments before the building collapsed.
Fatima Monarez, who worked at a lotto outlet on the ground floor, wept as she recounted how she crawled toward the door of the grocery with Daya Ty, daughter of the building owner, Gil Ty.
After they were able to get out, both were shocked to see the building crumble before their eyes.
The Kananga municipal council had declared a state of calamity to allow the town to access funds to aid the victims.
Leyte Gov. Leopoldo Dominico Petilla suspended all classes in all levels in the province to allow authorities to inspect all school buildings for any possible damage.
The earthquake had a relatively shallow depth, which often can cause greater surface damage. The US Geological Survey measured it at 6.5 kilometers deep while the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said it was 2 kilometers and caused by movement of the Philippine Fault.
“The center of the earthquake was in mountainous villages so we will only get a clearer picture of the impact once we reach these areas,” said Mina Marasigan, spokesperson for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
The quake struck in a region that was devastated in 2013 by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan), which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing.The Philippines sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where earthquakes and volcanoes are common. A 7.7-magnitude quake killed nearly 2,000 people in the north in 1990. —WITH REPORTS FROM CONNIE FERNANDEZ, ROBERT DEJON, JOEY A. GABIETA, VICKY ARNAIZ, LEO UDTOHAN, AP AND AFP