Southern Leyte town in state of calamity after quake

By Jolene Bulambot, Jani Arnaiz
Visayas Bureau
Last updated 07:36pm (Mla time) 07/25/2007

HINUNANGAN, Southern Leyte, Philippines — Hinunangan town has been placed under a state of calamity following the July 19 intensity 6 quake that damaged many parts of the town.


The Hinunangan municipal council on Wednesday passed a resolution that placed the town under a state of calamity. This will allow the use of calamity funds.


Vice Mayor Esterlita Demiao said the fund would be used to rehabilitate the damaged buildings, roads, bridges, pipelines and other infrastructure.


The extent of the damage caused by the earthquake was extensive, Demiao said, as the partial damage reports from 24 of the town’s 40 villages placed the losses at P21 million.


“The damage may even go beyond P50 million. And we have to relocate some residents,” Demiao said.


She said that more than 1,000 residents would have to be relocated, most of whom from the mountain villages of Lumbog and Matin-aw that were being closely monitored due to the cracks in the nearby mountains.


Intensity 6 on the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale means everyone feels the shaking and people may have trouble walking due to the movement. The force is such that objects would fall from shelves and pictures from walls, furniture would move, wall plaster would crack, and trees and bushes would shake. Generally, it is not expected to result in structural damage to buildings.


Intensity as a type of measuring the strength of an earthquake is different from magnitude on the Richter scale. Intensity refers to the earthquake’s observable effects on the ground while magnitude refers to the level of seismic energy released by the earthquake.


Mayor Romero Gomez admitted he was not keen on placing his town under a state of calamity because it would only sow fear and panic among residents.


But Gomez said he would not veto the council’s resolution because it would facilitate financial aid from the provincial board and national government.


On Monday, another earthquake, recorded at magnitude 3 by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), hit the town. The nearby town of St. Bernard also experienced an intensity 2 earthquake.


While considered minor in magnitude and lower in intensity, Monday’s earthquake triggered panic among local residents, some of whom left town lest the town would sink or a tsunami would occur, said Procesa Cruz, executive assistant to the mayor.


Cruz said they tried to calm down residents of severalvillages after they panicked when two more mudboil (sinkholes) were found in Badiangon and Panalaron villages.


At the height of the first earthquake on Thursday, two sinkholes appeared. The residents reportedly found seven mudboil but officials confirmed only four.


Gomez said some families still left although they assured the residents that the town was not in danger of sinking.


“We told them that Mines and Geoscience Bureau (MGB) has already investigated the mudboil and there was no cause for alarm,” Gomez told the Inquirer.


MGB geologist Armand Dupio said that mudboils, not sinkholes, appeared because of the earthquake.


“Sinkholes are usually found on limestone areas. The one in Hinunangan are mudboils, water that are trapped usually in ricefields,” Dupio said in a telephone interview.


He described a mudboil as a natural phenomenon that would appear during seismic activity and would be covered by soil eventually.


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