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.)
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The Philippines, though blessed with scenic spots and abundant natural resources, is also a country prone to natural disasters. Aside from an average number of 19 to 20 tropical cyclones every year, it also falls within the Pacific Ring of Fire.
Stretching around 25,000 miles, the Pacific Ring of Fire is an area where most volcanic and seismic activities occur. In fact, it includes more than 450 of the most active volcanoes located underwater. The province of Bohol, struck by the most recent strong quake two years ago, is one of the most seismically active areas in the country.
The Bohol Quake in Retrospect
At 8:12 A.M. on October 15, 2013, a powerful earthquake shook Central Visayas, particularly Bohol. At magnitude 7.2, the quake had a focal depth of 12 kilometers, its epicenter plotted near the boundary of the municipalities of Sagbayan and Catigbian in Bohol. According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), the earthquake produced strong ground shaking, liquefaction and earthquake-induced landslides.
Landslides were reported in the municipalities of Boljoon, Aloguinsa, Argao, Cebu and also in the municipalities of Clarin, Lila, Corella, Balilihan, Alicia, Loboc, Bilar, Cortes, Dimiao, Antequera, Loon and Danao. Meanwhile, based on the reports from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), hundreds died and were injured.
More than 600 thousand families or about 3 million persons were affected in the 6 provinces of Region VI and VII. Thousands of houses were damaged in Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental, IloIlo, Siquijor and Guimaras. Aside from the houses, other infrastructure like churches, government and public buildings, schools, hospitals— along with seaports, airports, bridges and roads, were also impaired.
Despite the disaster, the people’s faith remained unshaken as masses were held in temporary chapels. In 2014, Panahon TV team had the chance to visit the survivors. We had the opportunity to listen to stories brimming of hope and the “bayanihan” spirit. Survivors were able to receive support from all directions– from the church, both local and international government and non-government organizations,which helped them rise from the catastrophe.
Is Manila next?
Two years have passed and the memory of the earthquake stays especially for those who experienced it. But as we continue to move forward, efforts for disaster preparedness in the Philippines continue to strengthen.
PHIVOLCS has warned that the Magniture 7.2 quake that jolted Visayas in 2013 may also happen in Metro Manila, due to the possible movement of the West Valley Fault.
As part of the advocacy of making every Filipino disaster-ready, earthquake drills are being done, where the basic method “Duck, Cover and Hold” is practiced and preached. People are also being taught how to prepare go bags, and how to assess their homes to determine and prevent possible hazards.
Today, as we remember the powerful Bohol earthquake, let us not forget the lessons this catastrophe offered, especially on disaster preparedness. Unlike tropical cyclones, earthquakes are not forecasted. They come like thieves in the night, so it’s best to make sure they don’t rob us our lives.
Ensuring an Earthquake-Resilient Home
Earthquake Survival quite literally begins in your own home. To ensure safety against tremors, it’s important to assess your living space to know what types of repair and reinforcement it needs to be quake-resilient.
You can begin your home inspection by examining two major factors: its content and structure.
Securing House Contents
It is important to identify the items that can possibly move, break or fall when a quake jolts your house.
Things to remember:
1. Secure hanging fixtures on the wall and ceiling.
2. Strap down hazardous electrical components.
3. To prevent tipping, heavy and tall objects such as appliances and cabinets must be anchored or braced using a flexible fastener like a nylon strap and a hook.
4. Place the fragile, large and weighty objects on the lower shelves of cabinets.
5. Lock the cabinets if possible.
6. Rearrange large things including framed pictures and mirrors away from seats and beds to prevent injury to occupants when ground shaking occurs.
7. Ensure elastic connector on gas stoves or appliances.
8. Check the accessibility of fire exits.
9. Know when and how to shut off utility lines.
Checking Home Integrity
According to the Metro Manila Earthquake Reduction Study (MMEIRS), 38.3% of residential buildings in Mega Manila might be damaged when the Valley Fault System moves. 339,800 of them will be partly disrupted while 168,300 will be heavily dented. Unlike other hazards, quakes can transpire anytime without warning, bringing secondary dangers such as fire, liquefaction and ground rupture among others.
This study led PHIVOLCS in coming up with a checklist that homeowners can use in assessing how their Concrete Hollow Block (CHB) house will fare in the event of a strong quake. This checklist is applicable to 1- and 2-storey houses, and a must for houses built before 1992 when the earthquake resistance standards were introduced to the Building Code.
Evaluation will be based from the tally of scores from the 12-point checklist:
0 – 7: Assessment is disturbing and needs consultation with experts as soon as possible.
8 – 10: House requires strengthening and expert consultation.
11 – 12: Seems safe but needs confirmation from experts.
PHIVOLCS recommends consulting with a licensed architect or civil engineer and a licensed contractor for official assessments. Aside from further renovation, checking your foundation for cracks must be done whenever there are interferences— natural or manmade— that happened in your area.
Building a Quake Resilient House
1. Have a licensed civil engineer or architect supervise the building of your house to ensure compliance to Building and Structural Codes.
2. Construct a regular-shaped house on a rock or stiff soil. Avoid building structures on muddy and reclaimed lands.
3. Use 6-inch thick concrete hollow blocks.
4. Vertical bars should be 100 mms. in diameter and must only have a 40-cm gap in between.
5. Horizontal bars must be 10 mms. thick and spaced between 3 layers of CHB.
6. Walls more than 3 meters wide have to be reinforced.
7. May need to add more foundation.
8. Use light materials on gable walls. Gable wall is the triangular area that connects the roof and the wall. Or better yet, build a flat roof house.
It sounds like the apocalypse, but it’s true: a killer earthquake may or may not come in this lifetime, causing thousands of deaths and massive destruction in Manila. Find out what will happen when “The Big One” arrives.
Fault Finding: The Huge Earthquake that’s Waiting to Happen
The Philippines is positioned within the Pacific Ring of Fire, where high seismic activities such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur. Apart from the active faults traversing the country, there are 23 active volcanoes that can also generate earthquakes.
On October 15, 2013, a 7.2 magnitude quake jolted Central Visayas, resulting into 222 deaths and destroying over 73,000 houses in less than a minute. With the seismic activity equal to the explosion of thirty-two Hiroshima atomic bombs, the provinces of Bohol and Cebu declared a state of calamity.
Greater Metro Manila Area (GMMA) is not exempt from earthquakes due to the very ripe West Valley Fault. Its 90 to 100-kilometer length crosses Rizal, Marikina, Quezon City, Pasig, Makati, Taguig, Muntinlupa and Laguna. Moreover, 35% of the population inhabiting the said areas lives right above this fault line.
The last recorded movement of the West Valley Fault was more than three centuries ago, in 1658. According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), a fault line usually moves sometime between two hundred to four hundred years. The movement of the fault is predicted to have a horizontal friction in between plates or what geologists call an “essentially strike slip.” The anticipated killer quake has been dubbed as “The Big One,” which can produce a magnitude 7.2, putting the capital’s population of over eleven million people at risk.
If the epicenter of the major quake hits Metro Manila with an intensity of 8 or 9, three million people would need to be evacuated; an additional 18,300 may perish due to fires in 97,800 buildings throughout the metropolis; 7 bridges would collapse, and secondary hazards such as liquefaction and landslide would also pose risks.
According to the United Nations, our country may lose as much as 19 percent of its urban-produced capital in such an earthquake, suffering economic losses of more than 9 billion US dollars. While, NDRRMC projects 2.3 to 2.4 trillion pesos or 10% loss in our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
As always, the key to surviving calamities is knowledge and preparedness. Here’s how you can protect yourself before, during, and after earthquakes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gy8-dBTP3-Q