State of calamity proposed by Batangas after 5.5-magnitude tremor

CAMP VICENTE LIM, Calamba City�- The provincial government of Batangas on Wednesday proposed to declare a state of calamity following assessments of the 5.5 magnitude earthquake that hit the province and jolted nearby Calabarzon provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Quezon as well as parts of Metro Manila Tuesday evening.

In a media interview, Batangas Governor Hermilando Mandanas said the proposed declaration depends on the damage assessments and the legislative measure to be passed by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (provincial legislative council).

Office work at the Provincial Capitol was suspended Wednesday afternoon except for disaster management operations, hospital, peace and order and vital services as more than 50 aftershocks were recorded as of press time.

According to the Capitol employees, the government building sustained damages with cracked walls, chipped off concrete warps and falling debris from the accounting, budget offices and the old planning building.

Classes in all levels were suspended Wednesday and students were advised on extra safety precautions and stay alert due to intermittent aftershocks.

Local governments also reported that roads remain passable as well as sea trips to the province's tourism island destinations remain open but travel advisories have been issued from time to time.

Mandanas also said that the southern portion of the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) tollway has sustained further damage and needs retrofitting.

He said that portions of the tollway incurred damage during "Typhoon Nina" which hit the province on Christmas day last year and is still undergoing repair when the earthquake struck and further stalled the rehab works.

According to Mandanas, alternate routes in Batangas were opened to motorists and commuters as the southern tollway underwent repair but with the new damage, assessments require retrofitting and rehabilitation to ensure the southern tollway's structural integrity.

Lito Castro, Batangas provincial disaster risk reduction and management officer (PDRRMO), said they are now conducting rapid structural assessments although minor damages have been reported so far.

Castro said slight damages were reported in centuries-old churches like Taal Basilica and the Batangas City cathedral, where walls incurred cracks and there were some fallen debris about the size of a clinched fist.

He said local authorities here have been coordinating with the clergies and parishes to check on the structural damage of churches as they expect influx of church goers, pilgrims and devotees in view of the Lenten retreats and Holy Week observance.

PDRRMO also reported that the Batangas Medical Center suffered minor damages in the pediatric and OB-GYNE wards, anesthesia care unit and the Station 1 building, prompting medical personnel to evacuate patients from the affected areas.

Government hospitals here directed their medical service teams to attend to the medical needs of the patients and dispatch ambulances and emergency responders for any quake victim.

Georgina Garcia, public information officer of the Calabarzon Office of Civil Defense-Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (OCD-RDRRMC), said most of the damages reported are from Batangas where the epicenter of the 5.5 magnitude quake was located off Tingloy island.

Garcia reported that the provincial and local government DRRMCs are conducting their intensive monitoring and rapid assessments and are still on red alert especially on any pre-emptive evacuations as intermittent aftershocks are felt by residents.

Meanwhile, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) Executive Director Dr. Renato Solidum said the Tingloy earthquake is one of the strongest recorded so far in the region.

Solidum said that residents here still feel aftershocks and ground shake as movements may be attributed to the Lubang fault off Mindoro Island next to Batangas.

The PHIVOLCS chief also allayed fears of residents here due to fake reports on the eruption of Mt. Banahaw and Taal Volcano as a result of the Batangas quake.

He appealed to the public to be discerning and avoid false information including unverified reports and misinformation of an impending tsunami alert.

He explained that the earthquake is tectonic in origin and not volcanic as pranksters claimed and that the magnitude of the Tingloy earthquake is not that strong to generate a tsunami.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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