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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, February 8, 2012
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Thousands return home;
bishop calls for help

Thousands of residents in five cities and six towns of Negros Occidental began returning to their homes yesterday after spending the night on higher ground and open fields amid fears of a tsunami and more earthquakes after the Magnitude 6.9 tremor that hit Monday, Provincial Social Welfare Officer Liane Garcia said.

Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon and Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra called on Negrenses not to panic, and to continue to pray that they be spared from danger.

There is no cause for fear, there is no threat of a tsunami , the governor said.

A tsunami happens when the earthquake’s epicenter is in the middle of the sea, which was not the case in Monday’s tremor, he added.

Marañon and Navarra also called for prayers of the victims of the earthquake in Negros Oriental and appealed to the public to stop spreading misleading text messages that are causing people to panic.

The governor said the quake damage to Negros Occidental was minimal, the bulk was in Negros Oriental.

The Negros Occidental Sanggunian will take up how much assistance the province will send to the earthquake-hit areas in Negros Oriental, he said.

“Let us not forget to thank the Lord for sparing Negros Occidental again from disaster,” the governor he said.

Navarra also called on Negrenses to pray that they be kept safe, and for help for the victims of the quake in Negros Oriental.

“Let us pray for the victims of the earthquake in Negros Occidental to be able to carry the burden of their loss, and for material help to help them get by,” he said.

He also called on people refrain from sending irresponsible messages that are unnecessarily aggravating fears.

The local governments of Sipalay, Kabankalan, San Carlos, Sagay and Himamaylan cities, and Hinobaan, Hinigaran, Pontevedra, Calatrava, Binalbagan and Isabela towns, in Negros Occidental reported that families from some of their barangays, especially in coastal areas, Monday night moved to higher ground, open fields and public plazas in fear of tsunamis and more quakes, Garcia said.

Victorias City Vice Mayor Francis Frederick Palanca said the people refused to go home because of false information being irresponsibly spread in text messages, and lack of proper dissemination of advisories.

“I tried to explain to them that it was safe to go home but they refused. The people slept in the plaza and in the church,” he said.
“In the end I did not insist on their going home because I was afraid a tsunami of fear would hit them instead,” he said.

San Carlos City social worker Cynthia Mirande said residents, rich and poor, fled to higher ground in the city out of fear of a tsunami.
The waterline in the sea had receded, causing panic, she said.

Some areas where they sought refuge in higher ground were even more dangerous as they were landslide-prone, she added.*CPG

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