LAOAG CITY, March 12 –-No emergency siren sounded or bell tower ring but an afternoon tsunami alert has spread like a wildfire causing panic among many people in this city and the province of Ilocos Norte.
For fear of any deluge, concerned city and provincial officials had adjourned their respective government employees and sent home them early . Court workers at the Marcos Hall of Justice, likewise, packed their things early afternoon in quick response to the tsunami alert. Some private offices also reacted to the alert call and closed pending transactions with their clienteles.
The moment she heard the sea roar, Rosalia de la Cruz started packing clothes and biscuits for her three grandchildren and asked her son to drive them to the city hall’s evacuation center.
It was almost 7:00 in the evening when de la Cruz, whose house was just a few meters away from the coast of Caaoacan here, saw unusual wave movements.
“I thought it was the tsunami starting to roll. The sea started to become turbulent. I immediately packed and collected my grandchildren,” she said in Ilocano dialect.
De la Cruz was among the more than 200 residents in the city’s coastal villages of Caaoacan and Gabu who trooped en masse to the city hall’s evacuation center around 7:00 in the evening Friday night to avoid being hit by tsunami.
Members of the city police were earlier deployed to the villages living near the city’s coast and advised residents to move inland when the alert level for tsunami was raised.
Mayor Michael Fariñas ordered the conversion of the air-conditioned city auditorium as temporary shelter and advised affected families to spend the night there and return to their homes only when the tsunami alert has been lifted.
The alert was lifted before midnight but evacuees heeded officials’ advise and returned to their homes the following day.
Ilocos Norte was among the 19 provinces declared under tsunami alert in the aftermath of the 8.9 magnitude quake in Japan.
According to Engr. Cynthia Iglesia, chief of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration here, mostly coastal villages in Ilocos Norte are facing the South China Sea and were not likely to be hit by tsunami.
“If tsunami were to occur, it would be in Pagudpud which is likely vulnerable because it faces the Pacific ocean,” she said.
Both Pagasa and the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology based in Pasuquin town started issuing tsunami alerts moments after the powerful earthquake shook Japan causing massive building collapse and tsunami that claimed many lives.
The city and provincial government immediately convened their disaster management councils and prepared evacuation centers and food packs.
In Pagudpud, Mayor Matilde Sales ordered the relocation of around 2,000 families living near the shorelines of Pansian, Pasaleng, Balaoi and Saud.
In Pasuquin town, more than 1000 families from the coastal village of Caruan sought shelter in evacuation centers.
Meanwhile, the God-fearing and religious Ilocano folks had all the reasons to rejoice and thankful to the Lord Almighty for sparing them from the nature’s wrath such as the recent tremor and deluge that devastated Japan. (JCR/CCA/PIA1-Ilocos Norte with report from Excel Guiang)