Eleven days after the killer quake struck the Central Visayas area, Bohol continues to struggle to get back on its feet.
A total of 199 casualties have been reported in Bohol alone, with 8 still missing; up from figures given last week. The increase in casualties was on account of newly dug-up bodies which were earlier not reported missing or dead. This tells us that there is a possibility of individuals or even whole families buried by the landslides without being reported. The estimated damage is now pegged at P1.6 billion.
Relief operations have become more systematic now, making it easier for food supplies to reach the isolated areas. The Air Force has played a very significant role in the effort to reach the isolated areas. Working from dawn to dusk, helicopters have been braving different difficulties and environments, just to ensure that the far-flung areas are serviced. To the Air Force, my salute to you for a job well done. The Army, the Navy , the Coast Guard and the Police have also been a significant help in the total effort. There have been so many organizations which have reached out to help, from international groups, to the Red Cross, to religious groups, to small organizations from Manila, to Cebu and the Visayas, to Mindanao. It is heartwarming to see medical volunteers scattered all over the stricken areas, servicing the evacuation centers and more. Thank you, all, for your outpouring of support.
In the course of the relief work, there were a lot of frazzled nerves and misunderstandings reported, which is quite a normal occurrence in crisis situations like this. The most prominent of these was the confrontation between Mayor Jun Evasco of Maribojoc and the Red Cross. Mayor Jun has unfortunately been unjustly pilloried by the national media. I’d like to believe that both parties wanted the best for the quake victims. And that there’s really nothing that a simple coordination cannot solve.
The overall operation isn’t over though. Now that the initial problem of food and shelter have been addressed – however temporarily, there remains so many tasks ahead for us. There have been reports of minor health issues in the evacuation centers. Cases of dengue have been reported. And the problem of lack of public toilets have been propounded. Next is the relocation and rehabilitation of the thousands of families displaced by the quake. A lot of families lost their homes and their belongings. They will once again be starting from scratch. How will their causes be alleviated? And then there’s the repair and upgrade of basic services such as roads and bridges, water systems and electricity. These will all have to be expedited.
With the discovery of the new fault straddling the northwestern part of Bohol, what measures will have to be taken to diminish the potential damage from another quake of such magnitude? Difficult decisions pertaining to old establishments will have to be made. These and more, our Provincial Government under Governor Edgar Chatto must now swiftly address.
Finally, there’s the issue of what to do with the destruction of the centuries-old churches. How will they now fit into the tourism program of Bohol? Tourism, being Bohol’s key economic provider, must now restudy its position. Perhaps by being creative, we can make the earthquake incident a tourist attraction in itself. We have the ruins, the fault line, the sinkholes, and other quake-related activities of interest.
How about a photo contest for photogs like my friends, Ric Obedencio and Ghen Lumayag, for pictures that can best articulate the damage and the drama that the quake left Bohol with? With the best pictures being displayed by the Bohol Tourism Department in a special hall. These are just top-of-mind suggestions that we can start thinking of, in our effort to move on.
By and large, we are now over the critical period. From the rescue mode, we are now in the recovery mode. Relief is becoming more systematic, with the outpouring of love and concern from partner nations, the national government, private organizations and the like. Rehab is now forthcoming. We are blessed. Bohol will certainly rise again!!!
For more on the Bohol quake, pls read:
(Photos courtesy of Ric Obedencio and Ghen Lumayag)