They looked like beings from another world. Fish that’s almost ten times the average Filipino height.. An unidentified hairy carcass washed ashore.
Such sea creatures are not only mysterious-looking, but are said to hold the key to the mystery of predicting earthquakes. How? Since these animals live in the deep sea, some believe that they feel the shifting of the ground before we do, and that when they suddenly pop into shallow waters or the surface, it means that their habitat was disturbed—indicating an impending earthquake.
Here are some of the alleged instances:
Weeks before a magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck Surigao, sightings of oarfish were observed in Agusan del Norte. A 10-foot long oarfish was found in Carmen, Agusan del Norte, approximately 168 kilometers away from Surigao City.
The oarfish, considered as the world’s longest bony fish, usually stays in depths between 1,000 to 3,000 feet below the sea surface. This type of fish can grow up to 50 feet long. According to some scientists, these deep-dwelling species may crop up occasionally due to strong currents.
After the strong earthquake in Surigao, other sightings of oarfish also happened in Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Occidental.
On the 22nd of February this year, a sunfish was seen in the shore of Balingasag, Misamis Oriental. The locals who have first witnessed the fish said it was still alive when they saw it but had later weakened and died.
In February 27, a sunfish measuring 147 centimeters long and 85 centimeters wide was spotted in the waters off Barangay Sangali, Zamboanga City.
Something unusual on the first of March welcomed the residents of Marinduque. A very large sunfish was found in the town of Boac. Local officials will have to investigate further due to the deep wound found on the sunfish, which might have been caused by parasitic worms.
According to the National Geographic, the sunfish is the heaviest bony fish and are generally found in the deep waters.
Speculations that the emergence of the sunfish is related to the ground shaking in Mindanao caused the residents to become a bit agitated.
A lifeless hairy blob or globster was found on the Dinagat Islands on February 22. A globster is an unidentified organic mass that washed up on the shoreline. The large sea creature could not be identified because it was already at its decomposition stage but some believed that the carcass is likely to be that of a sea cow.
Because of the proximity of Dinagat Islands to where the recent magnitude 6.7 earthquake transpired in Surigao,locals speculated this huge white beast went ashore because of the powerful tremor.
Apart from an average number of 19 to 20 tropical cyclones each year, the Philippines is also prone to earthquakes because it’s within the Pacific Ring of Fire. The most recent massive tremor in the country is the magnitude 6.7 earthquake that jolted several parts of Mindanao at around 10:03 PM on February 10, 2017. At a shallow depth of 10 kilometers, the epicentre was located at 16 kilometers offshore northwest of Surigao City.
The ground shaking was felt in Surigao City and San Francisco, where Intensity 7 was recorded. The rest of the municipalities in Surigao del Norte experienced Intensities 4, 5 and 6. To date, more than 200 aftershocks have beenrecorded by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS). The largest of these rocked the same location on March 5, 2017 at 8:08 AM. With a depth of 10 kilometers, the epicentre of the magnitude 5.9earthquake was plotted at 80 kilometers west of Surigao City.
As of March 8, the latest report from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) showed a total of 38, 245 persons affected in 82 barangays of Surigao del Norte. Eight people died from the recent powerful earthquakes while more than 230 people were injured. More than 7 thousand houses and 47 school facilities were damaged.
Surigao Earthquake Explained
According to PHIVOLCS, Eastern Mindanao, including Surigao del Norte, is a seismically active area because of the Philippine Fault and Philippine Trench.
This is not the first time that Surigao experienced enormous earthquakes. A magnitude 7.4 tremor rocked the Surigao segment of the Philippine Fault on July 1, 1879. This was considered the largest historical earthquake in Surigao where ground shaking was felt in the entire province, causing huge damage to infrastructure, widespread liquefaction and landslides.
Can we predict earthquakes?
These strange deep-sea creatures that are recently surfacing in shallow waters have created quite a stir among the residents, sparking discussions on social media. Many people feared that the mysterious sea creatures were omens of horrendous events.
Is it true that the appearance of these sea creatures point to an impending disaster? Here are what the experts have to say:
“Kung pag-uusapan ang recent sea creatures na natagpuan sa bansa, walang basehan na kaya nitong magpredict ng lindol. Totoong minsan ay may kakaibang kilos ang mga hayop pero dapat pinapakita ito ng marami at dun mismo sa panggagalingan ng lindol. So, hindi lahat ng animal behaviour ay mairerelate sa earthquakes.”
Ang kailangan natin ngayon ay paghahanda. Makakaligtas ka sa lindol kung una, sisiguraduhin mong matibay ang iyong bahay. Pangalawa, alam mo kung ano ang gagawin kapag tumama ang lindol. ‘Yung duck, cover & hold. At ikatlo, alam mo at ng mga tao sa iyong komunidad kung paano ang mabilis at tamang pag-respunde gaya ng evacuation at first aid…mahalagang mapag-aralan ‘yan.”
(There is no scientific basis that animals, particularly sea creatures, can predict earthquakes. Animals may have unusual behaviour but not everything is related to the occurrence of earthquakes.
What we need to do now is to be fully prepared. To survive an earthquake, make sure that your house is strong enough to withstand huge earthquakes. Second, you must know what to do during an earthquake. Always remember the duck, cover & hold. Lastly, educate yourself with the proper response and rescue procedures.)
– Dir. Renato Solidum
PHIVOLCS Director / DOST Undersecretary
“This is not a way to predict earthquakes,” Dukes said. “It’s just a way to warn that the Earth is moving and something — an earthquake, or a landslide or something else — might follow.”
– Catherine Dukes
Researcher, University of Virginia
“Animal behavior is not always predictable — for the earthquake forecasting side of things we would still need to have geophysical measurements in combination with animal measurements.”
– Dr Rachel Grant,
Lecturer, Animal and Environmental Biology (Anglia Ruskin University)
“These are just old superstitions and there is no scientific relationship between these sightings and an earthquake.”
– Hiroshi Tajihi
Kobe Earthquake Center
So the next time you hear about the appearance of such creatures, remember that panic is not the right response. What we must constantly do is preparation; even without the surfacing of these mysterious-looking sea animals, we must be always be ready for the possibility of disasters.
PHIVOLCS – DOST
Sunstar Cagayan De Oro
On the third week of April 2016, a series of massive earthquakes hit different parts of the world, killing more than 700 people. These raised a common question among Filipinos: Is the “Big One” about to happen in the country soon?
On April 14, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake shook the island of Kyushu in Southwest Japan. Unknown to many, this was just a foreshock of a bigger quake.
On a Friday morning, April 15, a massive magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Kumamoto in the Kyushu Region killing 48 people. More than 680 aftershocks were recorded since the April 14 foreshock—of these, 89 registered at magnitude 4 or more on Japan’s intensity scale.
As of posting, the incident left three persons missing, about 3,000 wounded, and nearly 100,000 people in evacuation centers in Kyushu. The quake damaged homes, schools, commercial buildings and roads. Meanwhile, car company plants of Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Daihatsu in Kyushu have also halted production due to a shortage of production components as a result of damaged facilities and assembly equipment.
A day after the destructive earthquake in Japan, a stronger 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Ecuador, a country located in the northwest part of South America.
Considered as Ecuador’s worst quake in nearly seven decades, the quake killed 654 people, injured 16,600 and left 58 others unaccounted for. In a statement over the weekend, Ecuador President Rafael Correa said that estimated damages are at $3 billion. More than 700 aftershocks continued to shake the country since the major quake.
Days prior and after these major quakes, strong tremors were also monitored in some parts of the world including Afghanistan (magnitude 6.6, April 10); Vanuatu (magnitude 6.9, April 14) Guatemala (magnitude 6.2, April 15); Myanmar (magnitude 6.9, April 13); and Tonga (magnitude 5.8, April 17).
WERE THE JAPAN AND ECUADOR QUAKES RELATED?
According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), no research has been done to prove that the two occurrences in Japan and Ecuador quakes are connected.
“It was one day after the Ecuador earthquake and two days after the Japanese earthquake… usually, we don’t think earthquakes are connected across the ocean,” said USGS geologist Paul Caruso in an interview with CNN International.
These two countries are also miles apart. Specifically, the distance between Japan and Ecuador is 15,445 kilometers.
WILL THE BIG ONE FOLLOW IN THE PH?
The recent earthquakes in our neighboring countries have raised the question from some Filipinos: Will a massive earthquake hit the country soon?
Though it’s true that Japan and Ecuador are thousands of kilometers apart, these countries have one thing in common with the Philippines: they all fall within the Pacific Ring of Fire.
The Ring of Fire is a horseshoe-shaped area in the Pacific border, described as a string of volcanoes and sites of seismic activities, or earthquakes.
On April 14, the same day when a 6.2 magnitude foreshock hit Japan, a magnitude 6.0 earthquake struck Baliguian, Zamboanga Del Norte. As of press date, this has been the strongest quake to hit the Philippines this month. According to the Zamboanga City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, the incident injured three people and damaged four houses in Barangay Sinunoc.
However, in an interview with Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology and Volcanology (Phivolcs) Director Renato Solidum Jr., he debunked beliefs that quakes around the world indicate an impending tremor in the country: “Hindi ito mga indikasyon, kung ang pag-uusapan ay lindol sa iba’t ibang mga bansa. Ang pagkakaroon ng malakas na paglindol ay possible naman talaga dito sa ating bansa.”
(Quakes are always possible in the Philippines, but their occurrences in other parts of the world are not indicators that a tremor will also happen in the country.)
“Sa nakalipas na apat na raang taon, nagkaroon na ng siyamnapu’t na destructive earthquakes. At posible pang mangyari sa mga susunod na panahon. Kaya lang, wala pa tayong masasabi kung kelan talaga mangyayari ito. Wala pang nakakapag-predict ng earthquake, na magsasabi sa ’tin ng oras, ng araw, at ng magnitude ng earthquake na posibleng mangyari. Pero ang importante, alam natin ang posibleng mangyaring mga lindol, pwede natin malaman kung gaano kalakas o kung gaano pwedeng mangyari’t pwedeng paghandaan.”
(In the past 400 years, 90 destructive earthquakes were recorded, which took place at a time and day no one was able to predict. Although these events remain unpredictable, what is important is that we know the possible strength and impacts of earthquakes. Hence, we can prepare.)
Meanwhile, to intensify community preparedness and the local government’s commitment, the National Simultaneous Earthquake Drill was held last April 21, a week after the major earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador occurred.
A ceremonial launch was conducted at Clark Airbase in Pampanga, which was designated as the government’s headquarters in case the “Big One” happened in Metro Manila and nearby places, where a “very ripe” West Valley Fault is located.
The West Valley Fault has a 100-kilometer length, crossing Rizal, Marikina, Quezon City, Pasig, Makati, Taguig, Muntinlupa and Laguna. Thirty five percent of the population inhabiting the said areas live right above this fault line.
While earthquakes remain unpredictable and inevitable, preparedness also remains as a salient factor in spelling the difference between life and death.
“Ang paghahanda po sa lindol ay hindi madali. Napakaraming gagawin. Hindi ‘yan tulad ng bagyo. Lahat nakakapagbigay ng babala at pwedeng maghanda ang mga tao bago dumating ang mga ito. Ang mga paglindol ay biglaan kaya ang ating pagreresponde ay mabilis, angkop. Depende sa konteksto kung nasaan ka. Kaya dapat ang ating aksyon pag lilindol na ay mabilisan, tama at mangyayari lamang ito kung ang ating pagsasanay ay madalas,” said Solidum.
(Earthquake preparedness is complex. It is not like storms that can be predicted and prepared for. Earthquakes can occur anytime without warning. Thus, actions need to be quick, accurate, and within context. These things can only be done with frequent drills and preparedness measures.)
REFERENCES AND PHOTOS:
This year, severe weather events impacted several regions around the
world—proof of the ever-growing threat of Climate Change. Fittingly enough, it was also this year when nation leaders gathered in Paris to finalize sustainable programs that will mitigate the effects of Climate Change.
Let’s review some of the notable extreme weather events that happened all over the world.
1. Deadly Heat Wave
The heat wave in India broke headlines as the death toll climbed to more than 2,300 in the most affected states— Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Data from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed the intensity of the heat wave. In May, a scorching 43 degrees Celsius was recorded, enough to melt the pavement in New Delhi. The heat wave was observed for five consecutive days, and was considered to be the decade’s worst. It was also declared as the 5th deadliest heat wave in world history by the Indian Meteorological Department.
In June, a blistering 49 degrees Celsius was recorded in Pakistan, causing 2,000 casualties. Hot weather is a normal phenomenon in Pakistan during thesummer, but what made it worse was the power interruption that prevented people to seek relief in electric fans and air conditioning.
2. Worst Drought
According to NOAA, October 2015 was the warmest October ever recorded in the 136-year period. Droughts are among the inevitable impacts of dry days or less rainfall.
In 80 years, Brazil experienced the worst drought, where parts of Amazon had dried up by 25% since the year 2000.
In Central Valley, California where 40% of the US’s fruits, nuts and vegetables
came from, farmers resorted to drilling for water. According to scientists, the amount of snow in the Sierra Nevada was at its lowest in more than 500 years last September. California Governor Jerry Brown issued mandatory water restrictions in an effort to reduce water usage by 25% percent.
In August, the state of Washington suffered from wildfire, considered to be the largest of its kind this year. Upon the declaration of a federal emergency, soldiers were called in to help the firefighters. 170 homes were destroyed.
Last November, 6,000 fires in California were documented, burning more
than 300,000 acres. Due to the intense fires in the Amador and Calavares counties, a state of emergency was declared.
On Christmas Day, more than 100 houses were eaten up by wildfire in
Australia. The blaze occurred in the Victoria State’s Great Ocean Road and according to authorities, it could continue burning for weeks.
Another story that made it to the headlines is the forest fire in Indonesia that caused a haze blanketing Southeast Asia, back in August. For months, the forest fire in Indonesia blazed, said to be caused by corporations and small-scale farmers engaging in slash-and-burn methods or kaingin.
Kalimantan (Borneo) and Western Sumatra were among the worst hit areas.
The haze reached Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Philippines.
Approximately, 500,000 cases of respiratory tract infections were reported in all the affected countries due to the air quality. In the Philippines, during the onslaught of Lando (international name Koppu), haze was reported in Zamboanga, Davao, Cotabato and Cebu.
4. Severe Flooding
In October, Hurricane Joaquin induced torrential rains that ensued
widespread flooding in South Carolina, resulting to 17 casualties. Around 400,000 people were affected by the floods.
In November, three times the average rainfall fell in Chennai in India, and in December, nearly 16 inches of rain fell within a two-day period. Known as the 5th largest city, Chennai was submerged in flood water, forcing the Chennai Airport, Southern Railway, as well as roads and highways, to close down.
Tens of thousands of people were trapped in floodwaters.
In late April, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake shook Nepal, killing more than 9,000 people. 23,000 residents were confirmed injured, while 450,000 were displaced. Aside from the 30 historical landmarks that were totally damaged in Kathmandu Valley, thousands of buildings, houses and shrines were also destroyed.
A magnitude 8.3 earthquake struck off the coast of Chile in September.
Though no tsunami was monitored, a tsunami alert was issued for early
preparation. According to the Ministry of Chile, 20 people were injured and an estimated 1 million residents evacuated their homes.
The force of nature is inescapable; everyone is at its mercy. What we can do is to learn from these past disasters so we can better prepare for future impacts. As we mitigate the effects of Climate Change, so should we strengthen our disaster preparedness.