DISASTER RESPONSE. Social Welfare Secretary Erwin Tulfo (2nd from left, seated) arrives in Bangued, Abra for an aerial inspection of areas hit by a magnitude 7 earthquake on Wednesday (July 27, 2022). Tulfo also met with Abra Governor Dominic Valera (4th from left) and Vice Governor Joy Valera-Bernos to discuss relief operations. (PNA photo from Abra Provincial Government)

BAGUIO CITY – Both the national and local governments on Wednesday launched disaster and relief operations in northern Luzon areas affected by a magnitude 7 earthquake that has killed at least one, injured several, and triggered landslides in parts of the Cordillera region.

Abra's provincial and municipal governments, as well as the Cordillera Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, have already conducted their respective emergency meetings to consolidate response actions, as troops from the 24th Infantry Battalion under the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army have been tapped to help.

Meanwhile, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Erwin Tulfo arrived in Abra before noon on Wednesday after a flyby for an aerial inspection of the damage brought about by the earthquake.

In a meeting with local officials of Abra attended by Governor Dominic Valera and Vice Governor Joy Valera-Bernos, Tulfo assured assistance and support from the national government.

“May paparating na food items para siguraduhing mapapakain lahat. Naalertohan na din ang DSWD-CAR at mga (Social Welfare and Development or SWAD) para sa mga kailangang cash assistance (Food items are being transported to Abra to assure that nobody will go hungry. The DSWD-Cordillera Administrative Region and the SWAD have also been alerted for the cash assistance needed),” he said during the meeting with the officials.

Food packs

As of 1 p.m. on Wednesday, the DSWD-CAR said a total of 24,247 family food packs worth PHP16,047,220.51 are available.

At least 4,434 packs have been prepositioned in Abra; 1,000 each in Apayao and Ifugao; 1,231 in Mountain Province; and 1,294 in Kalinga.

Non-food items are also available for dispatch, such as family tents, modular tents, sleeping kits, hygiene kits, sanitation kits, kitchen boxes, rolls of laminated sacks, and malong.

Benguet Congressman Eric Yap, in a video message posted on Facebook, said he has already coordinated with private contractors to help clear roads of landslides, especially in Benguet, which connects to other parts of the region like Mountain Province, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Abra.

Condition of roads

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), meanwhile, said Kennon Road, the Benguet-Vizcaya Road, the Baguio-Bua-Itogon Road, and Mt. Data Cliff are all closed to vehicular traffic due to several landslides.

The Mountain Province-Ilocos Sur Road via Tue and Kayan Roads in Mankayan is also still closed due to a series of road slides but DPWH equipment is already onsite to punch open the road.

The Baguio-Bontoc Road and the Mountain Province-Cagayan Road via the Tabuk-Enrile Road have already been cleared while two loaders are still working on clearing the latter road's Gawa section.

The Mountain Province-Nueva Vizcaya Road, Junction Talubin-Barlig, and Dantay-Sagada Road are all open to traffic.

Work, class suspension

The chief executives of Baguio City, Benguet, and Abra have ordered a suspension of work in government and classes in both public and private schools.

Abra Governor Dominic Valera and Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong, in separate orders, told building owners to prevent entry into their respective structures pending the conduct of a structural stability assessment.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said the magnitude 7 earthquake hit Abra at 8:43 a.m., with a depth of 25 km.

As of 1 p.m., more than 200 aftershocks have been recorded, according to Phivolcs.

The DSWD said the lone casualty in Benguet was reported in La Trinidad, while several others were injured in Abra. (PNA)