by Vic V. Vizcocho, Jr.
A 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck around 5:11 pm today (Monday) in Olongapo City, the Subic Bay Freeport and elsewhere in Central Luzon and Metro-Manila, knocking-off power, shattering glass panels, collapsing walls and breaking concrete on several buildings and roads.
“Ngayon lang nagkaroon ulit ng ganito kalakas na lindol dito mula ng pumutok ang bulkang Pinatubo noong 1991,” Aletha D. Candaliza said, echoing the shock many residents experienced brought by the vigorous ground-shaking.
While unlike in nearby Pampanga where at least 8 people have been reported to have been killed as a result of the earthquake as of 8pm, several people were brought to hospitals for various injuries and aggravated illnesses.
Twenty-four-year-old Ina G. Gramonte was about to step off the escalator from the 2nd level of SM Olongapo when the shaking began, peeling off floor tiles that broke into shards, causing her to trip and fall, wounding her knees and legs.
Nagsigawan ang mga tao, iyakan, takbuhan,” Ina said, “may mga natumba at napahiga sa sahig, especially ang mga senior citizens.”
At Harbor Point Mall inside the Subic Bay Freeport, people scampered for the exits as the earthquake jolted for more than 15 seconds, or so.
Shoppers, tenants and employees of SM Olongapo, which sustained visible damage on its walls, floor and roofing, were ordered to evacuate while the extent of the damage and safety of the 7-story building are being assessed.
It has been cordoned-off under the watch of security guards who refuse access to the building even by employees who want to retrieve personal belongings left inside.
Olongapo City Mayor Rolen C. Paulino has ordered that the safety of both public and private buildings in the city be determined as soon as possible, and suspended summer classes in schools for tomorrow (Tuesday).
Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chair & Administrator Wilma T. Eisma has ordered the management of Harbor Point Mall inside the Subic Bay Freeport to ascertain the safety of its structures before re-opening the building for business.
Eisma also gave instructions for “technical assessments” on all buildings in the Freeport.
Eisma said she has offered to Dept. of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arturo Tugade the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA) as an alternative to Clark International Airport, where flights have been cancelled due to damages on its buildings as a result of the earthquake.
SBIA, Eisma said, did not sustain any damage from the strong tremor. “We are more fortunate than others,” she said,”electricity is fully restored… no water pipes have been affected.”
Under Eisma’s instructions, the SBMA Fire Department has joined the search and rescue operations at the collapsed Supermarket in Porac, Pampanga where victims are believed trapped beneath the rubble.
According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, the epicenter of the 6.1 magnitude quake (earlier reported 5.7) was at some 2 kms. North-East of Castillejos, Zambales, north of the Subic Bay Freeport and Olongapo.
Hours after the earthquake, aftershocks are still being recorded by Phivolcs, although most are not strong enough to be felt by humans.
Power has been restored in the affected parts of the Subic Freeport, and in Olongapo City, according to Olongapo Electricity Distribution Company (OEDC) spokesperson Dorothy Agarin, only one area, in Bgy. East Tapinac, remains without power as of 9pm, but added that it is expected to resume any moment.