Philippines Freezes Prices in Quake Zone as Death Toll Hits 107

The Philippines froze prices for basic goods to prevent gouging in an area cut off by the country’s biggest earthquake in a year, as the death toll from the temblor rose to 107.

Rescue crews were searching for survivors in the central Visayas region after yesterday’s magnitude-7.2 earthquake. At least 276 people were hurt and authorities have recorded more than 820 aftershocks, Reynaldo Balido, spokesman for the Office of Civil Defense, said in a televised briefing in Manila today.

The earthquake posed a new test for crisis managers in the Philippines only weeks after heavy rains from a typhoon caused flooding and landslides. The Philippines was the country most affected by natural disasters in 2012, according a study by the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters.

Authorities will need as long as four weeks to repair as many as 14 bridges damaged by the quake in Bohol province, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson told Aquino. Prices of basic goods were frozen though sufficient supplies remain, Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas said in the meeting.

“We’ll be monitoring everybody’s compliance,” President Benigno Aquino told a televised meeting today in the Bohol capital of Tagbilaran. “There are sufficient funds available, there’s sufficient food and materials.”

State of Emergency

A state of emergency was declared in Bohol and Cebu provinces, prompting schools to close until officials determine the safety of buildings and bridges. Renato Solidum, director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, said at the briefing in Tagbilaran attended by Aquino that people should avoid damaged houses and areas prone to landslides.

Yesterday’s quake was the strongest since a magnitude-7.6 temblor struck near Surigao City in the south of the country in August 2012. An earthquake also killed more than 1,500 people in Baguio City on the main island of Luzon in July 1990.

The Philippines topped the list of 10 countries most affected by natural disasters last year, with 2,360 deaths, according to the report by the Brussels-based research institute.

To contact the reporters on this story: Norman P. Aquino in Manila at naquino1@bloomberg.net; Cecilia Yap in Manila at cyap19@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net

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