MANILA - Residents in quake-hit areas in Mindanao were told to remain in open spaces or designated evacuation centers as tremors could still happen, the country's disaster agency said Friday.
"People are not allowed to go back to buildings. What we’re trying to avoid at this time is the occurrence wherein there are people in that structure and another earthquake hits and the building collapses on them," said Mark Timbal, spokesperson of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
On ANC's Headstart, Timbal said they continue to advise residents to refrain from returning to their houses just yet.
"Usually, what happens is people who are going back are the ones who get trapped," he said.
He said there are also residents who opted to stay in open spaces near their houses to protect their residences against burglars.
"What is essential here is we keep our people safe even though they are forced to stay in open spaces but we do not limit them from going to other places or their relatives so that they can find other places to stay, but not inside the area," Timbal said.
The NDRRMC already informed local government units about areas it identified as hazardous and needed to be vacated or evacuated at specific times.
"We are advising local governments to make sure some of these hazard areas should not be used as residential areas like beside river or coastal areas that are prone to storm surges, the foothills of mountains that are prone to landslides are always advised to be cleared of residences," he said.
As of Friday morning, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said the three recent earthquakes affected over 6,000 families or around 30,000 individuals in Regions 11 and 12.
These areas are in Bansalan, Digos City and Magsaysay in Davao del Sur for Region 11 and Kidapawan City, Makilala, Mlang and Tulunan in North Cotabato for Region 12.
"What we are sending right now are tents, laminated sacks, hygiene kits, plastic bottles as their water containers, and food packs," said DSWD spokesperson Irene Dumlao.
Dumlao said the DSWD is also providing psychosocial intervention to help residents cope with the trauma.
"Our social workers who are deployed in the field are actually doing assessment of their cases so that we could determine appropriate interventions to be given to them," she said in the same interview.
The agency, she added, would eventually provide cash for work to affected residents.
The death toll from the 3 earthquakes is at 16, 6 of which was from the recent quake, Timbal said.
But Timbal stressed that earthquakes don't actually kill.
"What kills are the structure that collapse on people. But if the concern is how will they continue with their lives, government is providing assistance to them to be able to bear the inconvenience of staying in evacuation centers," he said.
"We have developed earthquake contingency plan. All regional disaster councils in municipalities have required local governments to establish their own earthquake contingency plans," he added.
He also stressed that preparedness starts at home.
"You should do preparations before the actual emergency. This is usually what we forget that preparedness is key for survival," he said.