I honestly thought that my Friday night would be the same, surfing the net at home and waiting for sleep to kick in.
Boy was I wrong.
Around 8:30pm, I went online, nothing seemed out of the ordinary today so I did not see that earthquake coming. At all. At 8:47pm, the ground started to shake. I’ve never been scared of earthquakes for some reason so I didn’t even budge from my pc. But after 5 seconds, the quake kept getting stronger, I could hear the figurines in the house moving and the ceiling fans (we have 2) were swaying. I realized that this wasn’t just an ordinary earthquake. I moved under the table (it’s made of Narra so I figured it was strong & it’s been with my family since I was a baby), and started praying. Then the electricity started to fluctuate. That’s when it sank in that THIS was really happening. It wasn’t a horrible dream or a movie scene. This was REAL. That was probably the longest minute (more or less) of my life: the time I spent under the table, fervently praying that the tremors would stop. When it did, I tweeted about it and then the well wishers came pouring along with the facts.
It was a magnitude 7.7 earthquake (7.9 in the epicentre), and according to Sunstar Cebu was “located at 175 kilometers northeast of Surigao, 187 kilometers east southeast of Tacloban and 749 kilometers southeast of Manila. In a separate report, the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that a tsunami warning was also in effect in Indonesia, Belau, Yap, Taiwan, Japan, Guam, Northern Marianas and Papua New Guinea.”
Tsunamis often follow earthquakes so the warning was expected. The panic by those living near coastal areas was expected too but I didn’t anticipate to see that many people at the Tacloban City Hall.
At 10:30pm my boss called me up and asked me if I could go to City Hall to assist in any way I can to those who were there. On our way to the office, we saw many people out on the streets trying to go some place more elevated.
The office was packed! There were people inside, by the grass, on the pavements, outside of the offices, and even on the parking lot. Most of them from the coastal areas of Tacloban, mainly Magallanes and San Jose.
Government vehicles fetched most of the evacuees from their homes (although some went there themselves) and encouraged them to stay at the City Hall since it is in one of the highest areas in Tacloban. Luckily, everyone was cooperative.
Tents were set up to accommodate those that weren’t able to fit inside the building. Some had sleeping mats and some used old tarpaulins as temporary mattresses.
On top of the volunteers from the City Hall (TOMECO, TACRU, CGSO, CEO, CAO, CADMO, HRMDO, Supply Office, to name a few), Delta Fire Brigade volunteers, PGBI, PNP, and FM Romualdez’s staff & vehicles also helped out. The spirit of volunteerism never ceases to amaze me. :)
Here, coffee, water, and biscuits were given to the evacuees since most of them probably weren’t able to pack food in their haste to go to a safer place.
By 12:10 am the tsunami warning was cancelled by PHIVOLCS which meant that the evacuees could go back to their respective homes. The City Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Council along with the Romualdezes were very hands on during the evacuation drive. In photo is Councilor Cristina Romualdez, CDRRMC Head Ret. Col. Buddy Estudillo, CDRRMC Officer Pinky Brosas, and yours truly.
Councilor Cristina went around and announced to the evacuees that the warning was lifted and that they were safe to go back to their homes. Fortunately, everyone was cooperative and patiently waited for their turn to be returned to their areas.
No pushing, shoving, or rowdy behaviour at all. So proud of the Taclobanons for being disciplined in times of crisis! By 1:30 am, the last batch of evacuees were brought home.
An evacuation activity was probably the last thing that I thought I would be doing on a Friday night. Despite the trauma and fear that I personally experienced over the earthquake, I am still happy that I was able to give comfort (I hope), help (I think), and assistance to people who needed it the most. I am still scared of the aftershock that everyone is expecting to come, but I am sure however, that when it comes, there will be people like my co-volunteers today, who will be willing to go above and beyond the call of duty.
Good job guys, good job!
Photos via: Tacloban LGU