Nearly one week has passed since a magnitude 6.5 earthquake rocked the Leyte province but for the victims, the nightmare has yet to end as aftershocks continue to jolt them.
On July 10, a 5.8-magnitude tremor hit Ormoc City. It was the strongest aftershock of the Leyte quake. To date, more than 600 aftershocks were recorded by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) since the July 6 earthquake.
In Barangay Gaas, a community that sits on the foot of a mountain, the tremor injured three children.
“The kids were holding their classes here when the earthquake happened,” recalls the village chief Marjun Magno whose house served as temporary classroom for the students after the first earthquake. “Two of the kids were brought to Gatchalian [Hospital] while the other will be sent to Cebu after sustaining damage on the spine.”
In Barangay Danao, Jayson Monares and his father refused to evacuate when the ground first shook. However, the second tremor made the crack on the side of the mountain near their village deeper. Add the fact that the region has been experiencing a rainy weather in the past days and the family is finally convinced to leave behind their homes.
They are not the only one, though. Majority of the houses in Danao and Gaas is now abandoned. Homes, made of concrete, used to be filled with warm laughter and love. Now, they are nothing more than rubbles.
“What we fear most is the possibility of a landslide,” says Jayson. “If this mountain, which already has deep cracks, collapse and slide into our village, we are sure many people will die.”
Susan Papillero has started packing what she has saved from her family’s belongings to take to the evacuation center. As painful as it was to leave behind the place where she grew up and raised her own children, her family’s safety should come first.
“We are leaving the village because the ground has a lot of cracks already and our homes are all destroyed. We are constantly worried. Although the situation in the evacuation area is difficult, what’s important is that our family is together and safe,” says the 30-year-old mother.
In both villages, an open and grassy ground serves as evacuation area for the residents. As many as nine families are sharing makeshift tents in Barangay Gaas.
In such a place, Lorena Caagoy laments that a thin tarpaulin is the closest thing they have for a bed. She is also worried about the health of the children in her family as well as the condition of her 59-year-old father who suffers from arthritis. His knees have grown swollen and the cold weather only doubles his suffering.
“What we need right now are medicines and beds, and how we can recover from this disaster. We are scared that we might get sick because of the situation here,” says Lorena, 41.
As part of their assessment of the situation in the worst-hit communities, Tzu Chi volunteers visited the two villages on July 12. Reaching the communities was not easy especially with the landslides and cracks in the road. At one point, the van that the volunteers were riding fell into a crack on the road. However, the volunteers’ determination to reach out to the quake victims in these isolated communities surpasses any challenge that they encountered.
“We really hope that we can gather more information and send it back to our branch office in the Philippines and our main office in Taiwan to give our Master Cheng Yen a clear view on how we should respond. Coming here is also a way of us to bring the blessings of the Master to these people and to comfort them at this very critical moment,” says Tzu Chi volunteer Michael Siao.
A house stands at the foot of this hill, which only recently eroded due to the persistent raining in the previous days. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Barangay Danao resident Jayson Monares shows a Tzu Chi volunteer the crack on the hill that spans almost their entire village. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Susan Papillero, a resident of Barangay Danao, has started packing what she has saved from her family’s belongings to take to the evacuation center. Staying at their village no longer makes her family safe. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
A Tzu Chi volunteer visits one of the makeshift tents where the residents of Barangay Gaas’s Purok 5, 6, and 7 evacuated after the earthquake. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
As many as nine quake-displaced families are sharing a long makeshift tent in Barangay Macabug, Ormoc City. The spread of illnesses and the lack of proper bed are just some of their concerns. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Lorena Caagoy (left) worries for her father who can no longer stand due to arthritis. She appeals for a proper bed and medicines. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
On their way to Barangay Gaas, Tzu Chi’s van fell down a crack on the road. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Despite challenges of reaching the worst-hit communities, Tzu Chi volunteers press on with the surveys to better understand the need of the quake victims. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Tzu Chi volunteers visit the home of Barangay Gaas chairman Marjun Magno. His home, which was used as temporary classroom after the first earthquake, was also destroyed following the aftershock on July 10. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Even concrete houses were unable to stand the ground’s shaking. It crumbled and fell into ruins just like many houses in Barangay Gaas, Ormoc City. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】