Dubai: When news of a strong earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale that devastated parts of the Northern Philippines was received in the UAE early this morning, most Filipino expatriates tried to desperately get in touch with their loved ones back home.
The earthquake that affected the northern mountainous provinces of Benguet and Abra also triggered massive landslides, devastating the landscape, cars and homes of the residents of the region.
Here in the UAE, groups of Filipinos lost no time in setting up support chains over the phone to get news from the region.
Jhoan Bruno, a cosmetic salesperson in Dubai hailing from Bantay town, near Vigan city in Ilocos Sur province, told Gulf News that she was desperate to get news of her parents residing there.
“Despite several messages on the phone, I have yet to receive a response from my father and I am so worried. However, many of my friends in Abu Dhabi, from the same province have set up a relay support group. We are all in touch with each other and exchanging whatever relevant information filtering out the affected areas. From them I have gathered that my parents are safe, but shaken. They are apparently at home, too afraid to venture out anywhere.”
Bruno said that from friends and relatives, she had also learnt that a disruption in phone lines had caused a blackout in some segments and she was praying her parents would continue to be safe.
“Several automobiles, homes and shops have been completely razed to the ground and people are in shock, I have been told. I am praying that my village is safe,” she added.
Another Dubai resident Alvin Mati said his families in Baguio and La Union were fortunately safe. “The earthquake that hit Baguio this time was strong but not as severe and destructive as the 7.8 earthquake that hit northern Philippines, particularly Baguio, in 1990. I was a first year high-school student back then and I could not go home to La Union because roads were closed for weeks.”
A third Filipina expat, Glorianne Montefrio, managing director of 5G Project Management, said she is worried sick about her cousin Michael Vincent Gaite, who is a television series director in the Philippines. Montefrio said her cousin Gaite is stuck in Ilocus as he was shooting for a popular series Probinsyano in the quake-hit area.
“I have been trying to call him since I heard about the dreadful quake. But to no avail. It was really difficult to get through to him. Finally, I could reach him on Facebook. He seems really disturbed and scared. He sent me a crying emoji,” said Montefrio.
She said Gaite’s good friend Coco Martin, a popular Filipino actor, is also stuck in Illocus. “I have met Coco through my cousin. They are good friends and were shooting in Illocus. They are in the same city but in different units or shooting areas. Both are shattered with the aftermath of the quake. I have never seen my cousin so weak. He is such a strong personality. I am grateful they are safe now but unfortunately, they are all expecting aftershocks, and that is worrisome. ”
UAE embassy issues advisory
So far, as per information released by the Philippines government, the earthquake has claimed four lives and injured 60 people.
The Philippines which is located in the seismically active ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’ that has many volcanoes and fault lines around has traditionally been vulnerable to natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes.
The UAE Embassy in Manila sent out a series of tweets to reassure that all UAE citizens in Illocos, which as affected by the earthquake, were safe. It also issued an advisory to UAE citizens in the Philippines to be compliant with all safety instructions being issued by the government. It has urged them to register via the Twajudi Services offered by the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Emiratis in the Philippines can contact the UAE mission in case of emergency on numbers 00971800024 and 0097180044444.