Hundreds of Thousands Flee in Quake Area
BAGUIO, Philippines (AP) _ Hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes Wednesday after four strong aftershocks shook the country’s north, which is digging out from an earthquake that killed at least 376 people.
Officials feared the death toll could rise sharply as isolated communities report damage from Monday’s quake. About 150 workers at a factory in the northern city of Baguio were missing and may have been killed in a fire that broke out after the quake.
Authorities also began plans to evacuate tourists and others from Baguio, which has a population of about 119,000. Baguio is 110 miles north of Manila.
Many people bitterly complained that rescue efforts were poorly organized and ineffective.
″People are losing hope, simply because they haven’t received any assistance from the national government,″ said Ronnie del Moro of the GMA television network, reporting from the town of Agoo in La Union province.
In La Union and Tarlac provinces, thousands of people slept in cars and in their yards because of damage to their homes and fears of another quake. Huge fissures of up to a half-mile cut highways throughout the area.
In the mountain resort of Baguio, where at least 82 people were killed by Monday’s quake, one woman approached visiting military Chief of Staff Gen. Renato de Villa and complained about the rescue efforts.
″These are all piecemeal measures 3/8″ the unidentified woman shouted as President Corazon Aquino’s spokesman Tomas Gomez tried to pacify her with promises that help was on the way. ″Why now, why only now?″ she asked. Gomez gave no answer.
The aftershocks delayed the search for survivors in several hard-hit areas.
Two measured 6.3 and 5.8 on the Richter scale of ground motion, according to the U.S. Geological Service in Golden, Colo. There were no precise readings for the other two. Monday’s quake measured 7.7, the worst to hit the Philippines since 1976.
In Baguio, hardest-hit by the earthquake, thousands of people began fleeing after the aftershocks. They carried their belongings with them like war refugees.
Scores of people jammed the airport in hopes of leaving the city aboard military helicopters that were ferrying supplies from an air base in a nearby province.
Thousands remained camped in city parks, many with only umbrellas for shelter in the frequent thunderstorms.
″We will just walk,″ one woman said. ″It’s dangerous on the road because of the landslides. But it would be much safer than staying indoors. We will be spending the night on the road.″
At the Hyatt Hotel, which collapsed in the earthquake, Clarita Gonzales tearfully called out with a megaphone for her 5-year-old daughter trapped in the rubble with her nanny.
″If you are still alive please tap,″ Mrs. Gonzales sobbed.
In all, eight hotels and 19 other major buildings were destroyed or heavily damaged in Baguio.
Rescuers found the body of an official of the U.S. Agency for International Development in the ruins of the city’s Navada Hotel, but had not yet recovered it Wednesday. The victim, who had been attending a conference at the hotel, was identified as Richard Finley, according to Eddie Teal, a fireman from Fairfax, Va. Teal was one of the Americans sent by the U.S. government to help in the rescue effort.
About 1,500 Americans live in Baguio.
Manila television stations reported that hundreds of thousands of people in central Luzon island lacked electricity, drinking water and food and were camped along highways for fear of aftershocks.
In Baguio, funeral director Filemon Relis, said his mortuary received nearly 70 bodies of earthquake victims. Some bodies were covered with blankets and were lying outside his funeral parlor because there was no room inside.
Mrs. Aquino flew to the area Wednesday to inspect the damage.
She ordered officials to give top priority to clearing roads so medicine, food and heavy equipment could be brought in. She also ordered city schools closed for a month.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Stanley Schrager said a 14-member military search and rescue team arrived from Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C., and would travel by helicopter to Baguio to join the search.
Health Undersecretary Mario Taguiwalo warned that disease may soon break out because of fresh water shortages.
Figures compiled by the Office of Civil Defense and the Red Cross showed 360 people were killed and 773 injured from the earthquake.
In addition, the Philex Mining Corp., reported 16 people were also killed at its residential compound in Benguet province but they were not included in the official tallies. The company said 13 of the dead were children.