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Manila, Philippines, 18 October 2013 – Oxfam has dispatched a team of six experts on the ground to assess the water and sanitation conditions in Bohol, after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the Philippines on October 15.
The earthquake has affected the Visayas and Mindanao islands of the Philippines, where the worst hit province is Bohol. According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) as of early morning today, Friday, 3.43 million people or 676,065 families have been affected by the earthquake across the Visayas, leaving at least 171 dead, 375 injured, and 20 missing. 20,034 families or 97,618 persons are staying in 85 evacuation centers across Bohol alone.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) described the tremor as a “major earthquake,” stronger than the earthquake that hit Haiti (7.0 magnitude) a few years back. The ground shook for about 30 seconds only but more than 1, 500 aftershocks have been recorded since then.
Severe damages to infrastructure have been reported, particularly on public infrastructure such as roads and bridges, seaports and airports, government offices, hospitals and medical centers, school buildings, public markets, etc. A total of 19,309 houses were damaged (partially and totally), according to the NDRRMC. Also heavily damaged were historic, centuries-old churches, considered as cultural heritage sites in the country and in the world.
Oxfam’s partner Rice Watch Action Network (R1) has reported that the municipality of Tubigon, in which it has work, is only partially accessible and has immediate needs for water, ready-to-eat food and other basic needs especially as markets are not functioning. Oxfam is going to Tubigon as well as to other coastal municipalities on the western side of the island such as Loon and Maribojoc which have been isolated after roads and bridges were damaged by the quake.
At the moment, there are issues around access to safe and clean water in Tubigon, Loon and Maribojoc. The water system is run by electricity and there are intermittent power outages. Apart from this, there is also the possibility of water being contaminated as pipes might have been damaged by the quake. This, however, needs further verification on the ground.
The Oxfam team is composed of experts in water, sanitation and hygiene promotion, livelihoods in emergencies and humanitarian protection. They also brought with them some 400 bottles of water treatment solution for immediate distribution through local health centers. “The government is well positioned to respond to this disaster, but because of the spread of the earthquake, there might be difficulties in reaching some places,” said Justin Morgan, country director of Oxfam in the Philippines after meeting with Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto.