Red Cross responds to the needs of quake-affected families in Philippines as aftershocks continue

By MJ Evalarosa, IFRC

Residents in the city of Surigao were shaken awake from their sleep on Friday, 10 February, after a 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck the northernmost province in Mindanao.

The shallow earthquake created strong tremors that caused damage to buildings, infrastructure and disrupted communications lines, affecting some 30,800 people. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported that the earthquake killed at least eight people and injured over 200.

Although no tsunami alert was issued, more than 16,600 people have been displaced and remain camped in open areas or are staying with host families as aftershocks continue to be felt in Surigao del Norte. The quake destroyed 215 homes and damaged over 3,200 in the province of Surigao del Norte.

The Philippine Red Cross 143 volunteers and staff responded immediately to the earthquake, providing support to local authorities to evacuate affected residents, conduct search and rescue operations as well as providing first aid to the injured. Now, together with partners from the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the Philippine Red Cross is meeting the needs of at least 7,500 people with shelter assistance and essential household items including blankets, water containers, personal hygiene items, mosquito nets and tarpaulins.

“Our priority right now is to provide temporary shelters for evacuees whose homes are not yet safe to return to, and provide access to clean and safe drinking water,” says Patrick Elliot, Operations Manager for the IFRC in the Philippines. “Many of them are still apprehensive about returning to their homes because of aftershocks.”

The Red Cross mobilised two ambulances, one water tanker, six water bladders, four generator sets, two onion tanks and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene equipment to augment the water supply and electricity needs of the affected communities. The Red Cross’ Surigao chapter mobilized and set up 75 family tents for evacuated residents, prioritizing children, lactating mothers, senior citizens and persons with disabilities.

The local chapter assisted in transporting patients from Caraga Regional Hospital to other nearby health facilities, set up three welfare desks, and provided psychosocial support to over 90 people in the hospital. Relief supplies dispatched from Manila and Cebu arrived in Surigao on Monday and are currently being distributed to affected families. Additional relief items including sleeping kits, 500 hygiene kits, 3,000 jerry cans and 1,000 tarpaulins are being mobilised from the Philippine Red Cross’ warehouse to boost the ongoing emergency relief operation.

“Our sympathy goes out to the people of Surigao City. During these tough times, we can give the assurance that aid is being delivered without delay,” says Philippine Red Cross Chairman, Richard Gordon. “This earthquake reminds us to always be on our guard and to be prepared for any eventuality. People should have knowledge on how to survive during an earthquake and minimize the risk of injury.”

In the last six months, the Philippines has been struck with a series of significant disaster events that have had a high humanitarian impact. Typhoons Meranti, Sarika and Haima made landfall in the country in September and October, while Typhoon Nock-Ten swept across the eastern island province of Catanduanes on Christmas Day.

“The Philippine Red Cross has been responding to each emergency to have struck the country since September. I have to commend the resolve of their staff and volunteers who have been working tirelessly to reach as many people as possible on the ground,” says Kari Isomaa, Head of the IFRC in the Philippines.