Tsunami panic in Cebu

A scene during the tsunami scare. (Photo from Newstimes.com)

An alarmed PRworks staff member called our attention at around 2 pm to some kind of trouble outside the office. A thick crowd was running from something from the right side of Sanciangko Street while others went the opposite direction.

I thought the commotion outside the PRworks office located just across the University of San Carlos gym was a rumble between two warring groups or a shooting incident.

The television was tuned in to a news channel and the radio was on. We were monitoring news about the magnitude 6.9  earthquake that struck two hours before or at nearly noon that February 6, 2012. A Phivolcs spokesman was explaining that the tsunami alert 2 raised had referred to possible one meter high  waves that would strike coastal areas.

Thus, I could not believe that tens of thousands of Cebuanos in Cebu City would panic and rush towards the mountain areas in Barangays Lahug and Busay for fear of a tsunami as big as the one that hit Japan.

Rumors spread like wildfire. For instance, SM City and SRP, located on opposite sides of Cebu City, were already underwater. This was apparently aided in part by an irresponsible radio announcer reading out loud live on radio an anonymous text message saying the waters were rising in the coastal barangay of Pasil.

Some obviously frightened people passing our office said the waters had already reached the Carbon market which was several blocks away.

At that instant, my son Andre was with his friends at their usual hangout a block away. He later narrated that at first they were oblivious to the people fleeing the city proper towards higher grounds. But when another friend arrived with news that the tsunami had already reached the Carbon area, they decided to transfer by car and fetch her sister Alya at the University of the Philippines campus along Gorordo Street in Lahug.

The sea of people and vehicles that filled up Gorordo going towards Nivel Hills and beyond surprised him. Nevertheless, they decided to just stay at Turtle’s Nest, a hangout near UP Cebu, and not go with the crowd.

Location of Mactan Island in Cebu.
Image via Wikipedia

We at the office could not also believe that a tsunami for hit Cebu City. For one, Metro Cebu is protected by Mactan Island. Two, the earthquake’s epicenter was in Negros island, across Cebu island’s western coast. Cebu City is located at the opposite side on the east. So we all decided to stay put.

Still, I sent a text message to Roger Vallena of Superbalita asking about the supposed rising waters. At that moment, he texted back saying he has a hard time verifying such talks. A few minutes later, we heard the radio reporting that Phivolcs had already lifted the tsunami alert.

That evening, a radio reporter interviewed media personality and Busay Barangay Captain Yody Sanchez who described the thick mass that reached his barangay as akin to that of Sinulog.

The mass panic eventually died down because the people could clearly see that Cebu City was not partly underwater. By then, the radio was already assuring that Phivolcs has lifted the tsunami alert.

Still, several stayed perhaps because of the strong aftershocks. Television footage a day after showed several dozens camped out at the Busay area.

“Para sigurado ta,” one of those interviewed said.

Below is one video among several others posted in Youtube about the tsunami scare.



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