ROAD CLOSED. The Batac-Banna Road in Ilocos Norte is temporary closed on Wednesday due to a strong earthquake in Abra and other parts of Luzon on Tuesday evening. A structural assessment of buildings and other structures is ongoing. (Photo courtesy of BFP Banna)

LAOAG CITY – Work in government offices, classes in schools, and flights were suspended in Ilocos Norte on Wednesday following the magnitude 6.4 earthquake that jolted neighboring Abra and other parts of Luzon late Tuesday evening.

In a Facebook post, Gov. Matthew Joseph Manotoc said the suspension was meant to prioritize the inspection of infrastructure damage that could have been caused by the ground shaking that rattled and left Ilocos residents sleepless the whole night.

Exempted were those performing frontline essential response services in local government units.

“Heads of private companies are encouraged to take all precautionary measures to ensure the safety of their personnel,” Manotoc said as he urged everyone to stay alert amid possible aftershocks.

As of this posting, concerned government authorities here are currently conducting a structural assessment of the earthquake's damage.

“For those who have observed cracks on their houses and commercial buildings, please let us know or inform your local disaster risk and reduction council for proper inspection,” Laoag City Fire Marshall Ronald Castillo said in an interview Wednesday.

Initially, the Bureau of Fire Protection Laoag reported that its overhead water tank sustained several cracks and is recommended for immediate demolition.

Canceled flights 

According to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), flight operations have been temporarily halted since 7:27 a.m. Wednesday until 10 p.m. Thursday (Oct. 26 to 27,2022) for the inspection of the runway, building and other structures.

Because of this, four Philippine Airlines (PAL) flights were canceled: PR 2196 Manila - Laoag, PR 2197 Laoag - Manila, PR 1198 Manila - Laoag, PR 1199 Laoag - Manila.

PAL also canceled two flights scheduled for October 27: PR 1196 Manila - Laoag, PR 1197 Laoag - Manila.

Affected passengers may rebook their flight within 60 days, or reroute within three days to an alternative destination.

They may also opt to refund or convert the amount of ticket to credits.

Meanwhile, CAAP reported that the airports in Baguio, Tuguegarao and Vigan incurred no damage, and that all personnel are safe.

CAAP added that normal operations were reported in airports located in Plaridel, Alabat, Jomalig, Iba, Mamburao, Pinamalayan, Calapan, Wasig, San Jose, Lubang, Marinduque, Romblon and Sangley.

Construction workers

At least 10 workers working overtime at the ongoing construction of the nine-story Dap-ayan building in Laoag City sustained minor injuries while rushing out of the building.

While sleeping inside their barracks, Michael Macavinta, one of the construction workers, said in an interview that he was still trembling from the quake.

“Hindi ko na alam ang gagawin at mahirap magtrabaho sa ganitong sitwasyon (I don’t know what to do and can’t focus on work thinking another quake might hit us,” he said, adding that some of his 200 fellow construction workers spent overnight at the capitol grounds while others went to the nearby Laoag City Centennial Arena.

Big and minor cracks with fallen bricks were also observed in several old buildings particularly on old churches and bell towers across the province.

The Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center in Batac City also incurred damage but is now safe for occupancy by patients.

In Banna town, motorists passing through the Batac-Banna Road were advised to take the alternate route due to a rock fall along the highway.

“No power since last night. We only found out this morning that the nearby elementary school’s concrete stage wall fell on our service post,” said Nicole Rudio from Laoag City as she immediately called on the Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative to check on the matter.

Churches damaged

Several churches in Northern Luzon were also damaged by Tuesday night’s tremor.

Fr. Engelbert Elarmo, parish priest of the St. Joseph Husband of Mary Parish in Laoag City, said he also sustained bruises on his leg from the disaster.

"Due to the strength of the earthquake last night, some parts of the church and equipment were damaged. I also injured my leg while running because it was dark, the power went out," Elarmo said in an interview with Church-run Radio Veritas on Wednesday.

He reported that among those damaged was the 70-year-old image of St. Joseph that collapsed due to the strong earthquake.

Elarmo noted that cracks have increased in the church that was first damaged by the magnitude 7 earthquake last July 27.

Meanwhile, he appealed for prayers for the safety of the people, especially in the areas affected by Tuesday’s earthquake who are still recovering from the impact of the July earthquake.

Landslides were also recorded on Abra-Kalinga Road, Abra-Ilocos Norte Road and in Tubo, Abra.

Meanwhile, various charity organizations and social action centers of the Catholic Church in Northern Luzon are now determining the damage caused by the earthquake.

Rev. Fr. Ronnie Pillos, Social Action director of the Diocese of Laoag in Ilocos Norte, said they are already conducting a post-disaster assessment in the areas most affected by the earthquake.

"For now, by the grace of God, we are okay in general, but there are still those who have been severely affected and they are the ones in need. There are only minor damages to the Churches [although] there is one Church that cannot celebrate mass because [their] walls have also been damaged,” he said in another radio interview.

He was referring to the St. John Bosco Parish located in the town of Dingras, Ilocos Norte.

The Catholic priest added that the diocese will issue a report once their assessment is complete and will provide immediate assistance to affected residents, if necessary.

On the other hand, the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia through its social arm Caritas Nueva Segovia has also taken action to find out the impact of the earthquake in the province of Ilocos Sur.

"We are okay but we are waiting for the reports coming from the different parishes" said Caritas Nueva Segovia director Rev. Fr. Danilo Martinez.

Meanwhile, Diocese of Bangued Social Action director Rev. Fr. Jeffrey Bueno said there is currently no serious damage recorded in Abra, where the epicenter of the earthquake was traced. (with reports from Ma. Cristina Arayata and Ferdinand Patinio/PNA)