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ARMM holds successful earthquake, tsunami drill in Maguindanao

Local News • 07:18 AM Fri Jul 31, 2015
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By: 
Ferdinandh Cabrera
Aerial photo of the earthquake, tsunami drill in Kusiong, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao. (Photo by Ferdinandh Cabrera)

KUSIONG, Maguindanao – The catastrophic
1976 magnitude 7.9 Earthquake reminisced today in the mind of a 50 year old
wife of a fisherman here when government agencies conducted simulation of the
calamity culminating the National Disaster Consciousness Month.

Norhaiya Untong was 8 years old and in
Grade 2 when she was awakened by the August 17, 1976 earthquake, that to her
recollection lasted for about five minutes. It was past 1 a.m.

As the shaking intensified, people, yelling
and crying, rushed out of their homes situated along the coast of Kusiong beach
in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

Then someone yelled tidal wave” as sea
water receded then suddenly rushing back as huge waves crashing into the coast
from different directions, destroying anything and everything in its path. Everybody, including Untong, rushed to the
mountain, about 500 meters away from the coast. Others did not make it and
perished.

Untong said if the people were
informed, trained on what to do, like today’s simulation of an earthquake and tsunami,” many would have been saved in that tragedy.

More than 200 people died here,
including my father and relatives, dead bodies litter around, others were found
40 to 50 days later,” Untong recalled. This activity really helped us prepare
for the Big One,” she added.

The Phivolcs website listed 3,351 dead,
1,379 missing, 2,227 injured, and 43,534 left homeless in the calamity. It said the extent of damages to life and
properties was high due to the fact that it happened just after midnight and
the tsunami” caught the people unaware.

During today’s replication of calamity,
residents sounded off the alarm using traditional bamboo instrument. Residents
rushed away from the shoreline toward the mountains.

Few minutes later, first responders,
composed of personnel from the military, police, Bureau of Fire Protection and
Rescue groups, arrived.

A horrific scene greeted the
responders. Motorboats and bancas turned upside down, houses destroyed, people
crying for help while others were dipping in the sea.

In the aerial shot of GMA News, rescue
workers hauled fisher folks, men and women from the sea. Many were blooded, others motionless. Rescue personnel applied first aid as fast as
they can while others established central area where the wounded were treated.

The simulation was skillfully carried by
representatives from various government agencies of the Autonomous Region in
Muslim Mindanao that composed the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and
Management Council (RDRRMC).

Engr. Rainer Amilbahar,
Phivolcs-Cotabato station head, said today’s simulation was very significant
because it provided the locals the basics of what to do in time of calamities
like earthquake and tsunami.

My initial assessment is very good. As
all of us witnessed, the local people followed the instructions on what to do
and where to go as escape route,” Amilbahar said.

Ramil Masukat, executive director of
ARMM Humanitarian Emergency Response and Action Team (HEART), said two things
are vital in a situation like this.

We should prepare more on the aspect
of communication and coordination, especially in areas where mobile phone signal
is absent,” Masukat said.

Now we know what to do, where to go,”
Untong said. Also, people should not
panic but keep calm so they can decide accurately what to do.” (Ferdinandh Cabrera)

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