On July 27, 2019, at 4:16 a.m., a magnitude 5.4 earthquake jolted the Philippine island of Itbayat for what seemed like a few seconds. The quake left severe damage to buildings, almost 100 people injured, and five dead.
“While people were still trying to recover, a stronger quake, recorded at magnitude 5.9, ensued at 7:37 a.m., resulting in the death of three more people,” said Jerry Requillo, program manager for ADRA in the Philippines.
Letty Cultura, a community resident who endured the two quakes, said she was still shaking long afterward. “During Typhoon Ferdie in 2016, people were laughing the following morning because our houses were without roofs, but this time, we are all crying because the damage is worse and we don’t know what to do.”
The northern municipality of Itbayat has a population of more than 2,800 people and includes a main island by the same name as well as five other, mostly uninhabited islands. Distance and difficulty to reach the islands deters most tourists from visiting. Typically, it takes travelers two hours by boat or 15 minutes by a charter plane to reach Itbayat, but when there is catastrophic weather, the boat rides can be delayed for days or weeks. Itbayat also has many jagged cliffs along its shores.
“For a time, local organizations trying to help were barred from going to the island because the government feared for the safety of the people,” Requillo says. “All intended assistance was required to be handed over at the provincial capital to control traffic to the island.”
ADRA Philippines eventually got clearance from local authorities to deliver aid to the island on August 1. However, boat rides were canceled at that time, and flights to the island were unavailable. ADRA partnered with the Philippine Adventist Medical Aviation Services (PAMAS) to help reach families and assess their needs. ADRA was able to reach the affected province and has been working closely with local authorities to provide aid distribution.
“Even though it was hard to reach our place, you never hesitated to help us. We still fear another strong earthquake may come, so prayers are needed,” said Cultura, who received much-needed relief items.