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Death toll climbs to 9 in Batanes quakes


By Martin Sadongdong and Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz 

Authorities on Monday reported the recovery of another fatality in the twin earthquakes that hit Batanes Saturday morning.



Updated information from the 505th Search and Rescue (SR) Group of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) said the ninth fatality was identified as Edwin Ponce, 32, a casual employee of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

The 505th PAF SR Group said they first recovered the victim’s foot Monday morning, and at past 2 p.m., his body was found in a supposed man-made cave where he seemed to have sought shelter during the quakes.

The recovery of Ponce’s body brought to nine the tally of fatalities from the Saturday earthquake.

Meanwhile, residents of Itbayat, Batanes continued to experience “lingering fear” as aftershocks continued to be felt.
According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), it has recorded
at least 230 earthquake events of small- to moderate-sized tremors since Saturday.

READ MORE: At least 230 aftershocks recorded by Philvolcs after twin Batanes quakes

According to Phivolcs science research assistant Maila Advincula, the magnitudes 5.4 and 5.9 temblors last Saturday triggered a series of 230 earthquake events, and have been slightly or strongly felt in 11 incidents.

Of the recorded series of earthquakes, 35 were plotted from their original source.

“Nasa plaza pa rin kami. Mayroon pang mga aftershocks although mahina na at hindi na ganoon kadalas (We’re still at the plaza. There are still aftershocks being felt but they’re already weak ones and not that often),” Mayor Raul de Sagon said Monday.

“Of course merong lingering fear pero so far, wala namang mga outward appearances na talagang hindi sila lumalaban (Of course there’s lingering fear but so far, there’s no outward appearance that shows they’re not fighting,” de Sagon noted.

The earthquakes also resulted in P47 million worth of damages to hospital infrastructures, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said.

After the quakes, the cost of damage for the Itbayat District Hospital was placed at P40 million, while the cost of damage for the Itbayat Rural Health Unit was pegged at P7 million, according to the latest NDRRMC situation report.

In the report, NDRRMC Executive Director Ricardo Jalad said cracks were found at both hospitals which were deemed “no longer functional due to continuous aftershocks.”

On Sunday, President Duterte visited the quake-hit province and pledged to give P40 million to the provincial government of Batanes for the reconstruction of the damaged hospitals in Itbayat.

Aside from the hospitals, 15 houses, six classrooms at Mayan Elementary School and seven classrooms at Itbayat National Agriculture High School also incurred damages.

Meanwhile, 911 families or 2,963 individuals were affected by the earthquakes in five barangays in Itbayat. Itbayat has an estimated population of 3,000, according to de Sagon.

Authorities earlier said around 2,900 individuals were staying at evacuation centers.

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