Disasters strike like thieves in the night, unpredictable and dangerous. In a span of six days, they’ve wreaked havoc in different parts of the world, including the Philippines.

Sinkhole in Downtown Fukuoka

On November 8, a giant sinkhole ripped a busy road in the southwestern stretch of Fukuoka, Southern Japan. The 15-meter-deep sinkhole spanned 30 meters—
roughly half the size of an Olympic swimming pool. Though not a single person was injured, it caused interruptions in water, power, telecommunications and gas supply in some parts of the city. Residents speculated that the nearby subway construction might have triggered the slumping of the 5-lane thoroughway, but civil engineering experts attributed it to the soil’s composition, which is mostly sand.

Courtesy: TIME
Courtesy: TIME

Japan proved its efficiency in crisis management as sewage pipes and utility lines in the business district were restored in just two days. Nearly a week later, the collapsed road was repaired with a mixture of sand and cement, making it 30 times stronger than it used to be. On November 15, pedestrians and vehicles started using the re-opened street.

Quake in New Zealand

On November 13, a powerful 7.8 magnitude quake hit New Zealand’s South Island—the strongest in the region since 1929. Tsunamis towering up to 8 feet followed minutes after the groundshaking. These inundated communities in Kaikoura, a coastal town near the city of Christchurch. “This is the highest tsunami wave that New Zealand has seen in at least 38 years,” said Weather Watch New Zealand. According to experts, the tsunamis could have been more catastrophic if these transpired during high tide. Luckily, tide level was low at that time.

Apart from homes, livelihoods, office buildings and transport routes reduced to rubble, two fatalities in Canterbury were also reported. “In the short term, what we’re trying to do is to make sure that people of Kaikoura and the like have food, water, help and backup,” NZ Prime Minister John Key said.

Courtesy: Mark Mitchel
Courtesy: Mark Mitchel

No less than 40 aftershocks were recorded, but the strongest was a magnitude 6.2, which occurred a few hours after the major quake.

The 2016 Kaikoura quake has less death tolls than the massive 6.3 magnitude quake that struck Christchurch in 2011, causing 185 fatalities.

An average of 15,000 quakes per year are recorded in New Zealand, but about 150 are strong enough to be felt. The country is situated in the Pacific Ring of Fire, a horseshoe-shaped region where the most number of quakes and volcanic activities transpire.

On the same day, a 6.2 magnitude quake rocked Northwestern Argentina. The epicenter was recorded in the La Rioja province, but tremors were also felt in Catamarca, Tucuman, and Cordoba. However, these caused no damage and injuries.

Know how to prepare for huge quakes:

Volcano Erupts in Mexico

Western Mexico’s Colima Volcano, also known as the Volcano of Fire displayed unusual seismic activities, which prompted the evacuation of hundreds of people earlier this year. After a few months, this volcano erupted, forcing similar evacuations last October.

But last November 15, Tuesday, the abnormal activity of the volcano slowly increased as the new lava dome in its summit crater continued to grow. Its lava flow, rock fall, glowing avalanches and ash fall posed a threat to locals.

Courtesy: www.theconversation.com
Courtesy: www.theconversation.com

Colima Volcano has an elevation of nearly 4,000 meters with a 5-kilometer-wide crater mouth. 30 eruptions have been recorded in the past 431 years. It is considered one of the most active and dangerous volcanoes in Central America.

Know how to prepare for volcanic eruptions:

Mandaluyong faces State of Calamity

Three people died as 500 houses were burned down in an 8-hour blaze in Mandaluyong City on November 13, at around 7:45 pm. The fire consumed sections of two densely populated and fire-prone barangays. The Bureau of Fire Protection traced the cause to a leaking gas tank, and estimated property loss at 10 million pesos.

Courtesy: DSWD
Courtesy: DSWD

1,465 families from Barangays Addition Hills and San Jose were left homeless. Some have evacuated to a covered court and two elementary schools. The local government promised to provide financial assistance to the displaced families, and help them reconstruct their homes or move to new residences. P8,000 shall be given to families who lost their abodes; home sharers shall receive P5,000; while families who were renting would get P3,000.

On November 15, another fire incident transpired in Barangay Addition Hills—the fifth in the area for this year.

Here’s how you can prevent loss of lives and property due to fire especially this holiday season:

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.


Related articles:

Ensuring an Earthquake-Resilient Home

Why Bring a Bug Out Bag?

Preparing for Huge Quakes

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority is in need of 8,000 volunteers for the Metro Manila Rescue Volunteers Corps to be deployed in case of earthquake. The group’s primary commitment is to serve as additional manpower to the existing 6,000 MMDA rescuers.

Eligible volunteers must be 18 years old and above and willing to undergo a three-day earthquake response and rescue training facilitated by the MMDA. Volunteers must be physically fit to fulfill search and rescue duties if and when the West Valley Fault moves. Volunteers will be grouped according to expertise and will be coached by batch of 30s.

Students whose families live in provinces that will not be affected by The Big One and those who live in the University Belt are encouraged to join the corps.

Aspirants will be screened by MMDA upon filling out the form at www.bepreparedmetromanila.com/ .

The Philippines lies in the Pacific Ring of Fire where the most number of volcanic and seismic activities are recorded. Provinces at risk to earthquakes include Surigao Del Sur, La Union, Benguet, Pangasinan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Ifugao, Davao Oriental, Nueva Vizcaya and Nueva Ecija. But the Greater Metro Manila Area (GMMA) is no exemption to tremors due to the Valley Fault System that may generate a quake with a magnitude of 7.2 –as powerful as 63 Hiroshima atomic bombs. To prevent casualties and damage to properties, here is what we need to know.

Being Quake Ready

1. Check your house for hazards for earthquakes and other secondary threats such as landslides, flooding, liquefaction and fires. If your house is erected within the 5-meter buffer zone from each side of the fault line, it is best to transfer to a safer place.
2. Make sure that your house is structurally sound.
3. Assemble your own Bug Out Bag.
4. Have a printed copy of the emergency hotlines.
5. Participate in office, school and community drills.
6. Hold occasional drills at home with the entire family.
7. Cascade emergency plans to your family. It is important to decide how, where and when to meet after an earthquake.
8. Turn off water, electricity and gas when not in use.
9. Know how to give first aid and Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).

Protecting Yourself During a Quake

1. Stay calm but be alert and keep your eyes open.
2. When inside a structure, do the Duck, Cover and Hold.
3. If no sturdy table is around, go against an interior foundation wall and cover your head with your arms. Remember to move away from objects that may fall, break, explode and cause electrocution.
4. If inside a movie house or a stadium, stay in your seat and cover your head with your arms.
5. When in a crowded building, do not rush for exits and stay away from falling debris.
6. When in a wheelchair, stay in it, lock your wheels and protect your head.
7. If you’re outdoors, move to an area away from posts, trees, buildings, electrical wires and poles.
8. When driving, move to the side of the road and stop.
9. If near the shore, go to higher grounds with your bug out bag.


After the Quake

1. If inside a structure, safely and calmly exit to avoid stampede. Use the stairs instead of elevators. Proceed to areas clear of falling and collapsing objects.
2. Do a headcount of your family and check for injuries. If someone has serious injuries, do not attempt to move him and call for medical assistance.
3. If trapped inside a building, wave a handkerchief or any cloth in the window to signal rescue. If you have whistles, use it. If there is no any window, stay in a safe area and do not touch any damaged appliance.
4. If outdoors, do not cross bridges, flyovers and tunnels. Do not enter damaged buildings.
5. When inside a car, park in the nearest place clear of falling debris and tall structures.
6. If it’s already safe, check for fire hazards, damaged utilities, wired telephone lines, and structural aspects in your house. If damages occur, evacuate and do not re-enter until proper repairs are done.
7. Wear gloves, facemask, boots or shoes when cleaning leakages. Stay away from fallen power lines and the possible conductors near them.
Do not walk in barefoot while checking the house.
8. Be prepared for aftershocks by knowing where to duck, cover and hold. Aftershocks may happen hours, days, weeks and even months after the main shock.
9. Get involved in community post-disaster plans and projects.

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.

house check phivolcs

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.

Because we live in an archipelago often frequented by cyclones and quakes, preparedness should be part of our lifestyle. That’s why it’s wise to devote a few hours of assembling Bug Out Bags with the family on a laidback weekend.

A Bug Out Bag (BOB) is a handy survival kit that contains our necessities in times of emergency. It is also called Go Bag, Grab Bag or Bailout Bag. This usually consists of supplies that will help you survive the first three days when trapped in a building or moved to an evacuation site, especially when problems occur during rescue and relief operations.

Water and Food Supply

Our body and vital organs need hydration to transport nutrients and eliminate waste. Over 72 hours with no water intake may lead to death. Each member of the family should have at least 3 liters of water in their BOB.

When choosing BOB food, go for the non-perishable, lightweight, less salty and ready-to-eat food items. Having a detailed supply list, including their expiration dates, will be helpful as you quarterly check the contents of your BOB.

Important items also include a can opener, Swiss knife, tumbler, plastic container and enough number of sporks.

First Aid and Hygiene

A First Aid Kit is helpful in dealing with minor injuries and illnesses. This should have the following:

It’s best to create a list indicating the product’s use, expiry date, and other necessary instructions. Practicing how to use the bandages and other medical tools is also advisable.

Wet wipes, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, toothpaste and toothbrush, hypoallergenic soap, towels and other bathing needs should be put in a separate pouch.


The choice of clothing should be based on the current season.

The basic set of clothing includes long sleeves, pants, shorts, socks, underwear, shirts, handkerchiefs and raincoats. Remember to pack clothes that will suffice for 3 days. Remember to put the clothes in a plastic bag first before packing it in your BOBs.

Other Contents

Other important things to put inside your BOB are flashlights with extra batteries, power bank, whistle, sleeping bag, rope, plastic bags and extra money.

After preparing your BOB, place it in an accessible, cool and dry place at home. You may also put one in the trunk of the car, in your office or school. Reiterate to the entire family that BOBs should only be used during emergency.

BUG OUT BAG Checklist
BUG OUT BAG Checklist


The Ridge of High Pressure Area remains to be the dominant weather system over Luzon. Based on PAGASA’s weekly outlook, it is likely to prevail until the end of May.

This weather system presents hot and humid weather conditions in the Philippines. Skies will be partly cloudy to cloudy with chances of localized thunderstorms in the afternoon or evening.

The weather bureau advises everyone to bring umbrellas, wear light-colored clothes and to drink water often for hydration. PAGASA also encourages Filipinos to monitor weather updates.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Red Cross will conduct a metro-wide earthquake drill from 3pm to 8pm today.

This initiative serves to teach the people what to do when an earthquake hits and where to seek refuge.

Here are the chosen schools transected by the West Valley Fault wherein the earthquake drills will be held:



Photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk/ http://goo.gl/ddkxm2
Photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk/

Exactly four years ago, the people of Northeast Japan experienced the darkest and longest six minutes of their lives as a 9.0 magnitude earthquake shook their homes, setting off a chain of catastrophic events that killed 15,703 people and destroyed $300 billion worth of properties.

Let us remember the key events that unfolded on those fateful days, which began on March 11, 2011:

March 11, Friday, 2:46 PM One of the most powerful earthquakes shook Northeast Japan, prompting the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center to issue a tsunami warning from Japan to the U.S. west coast. The tsunami alert included more than 50 countries, including the Philippines.
Just within an hour after the quake, a tsunami with an estimated height of 30 feet pounded over Japan’s coastal areas. Residential establishments, commercial buildings, and even cars and trains were washed away. Vital infrastructures, such as bridges, roads, and communication towers were also destroyed. Dead people were scattered on the streets.

8:15 PM The tsunami that ensued after the quake posed a threat to 54 nuclear power plants across Japan, urging the Japanese Government to declare an emergency situation for the power plants near Sendai, 180 miles from Tokyo.

10:29 PM The cooling system of the Fukisihima nuclear plant ceased operating, spreading fear of radiation leaks. Thousands of people living within the mile-and-a-half radius of the plant were ordered to evacuate.

March 12, Saturday, 2:06 AM The radiation level in the Fukishima nuclear plant began to rise. In less than an hour, the government confirmed a radiation leak. An explosion occurred in a building housing one of the plant’s reactors.

March 13, Sunday, Energy rationing had to be implemented due to the shutting down of nuclear power stations. Millions of residents were without power and water.

Photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk/ http://goo.gl/ddkxm2
Photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk/

March 14, Monday, A second explosion occurred at the Fukishima nuclear power plant.

In a report dated February 10, 2015, CNN.com reported 15,890 confirmed deaths due to the earthquake and its related incidents.

In another report dated March 9, 2015, USA Today stated that radiation levels remain as much as 10 times above normal, resulting to nearly a quarter-million displaced Japanese. Hundreds of square miles forest, farmlands and settlement remain uninhabitable.

Recovery Efforts

The wise Confucius once said that “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop”, a saying that’s synonymous to Japan’s current efforts.

Photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk/ http://goo.gl/ddkxm2
Photo credit: www.telegraph.co.uk/

Despite the slow pace of recovery, Japan continues to strive harder, seen with the construction of 70 new sea walls (90-meters wide, 15-meters high) that started in Kesennuma in the Miyagi Prefecture. This was authorized by the central government to protect the northeastern coastline.

From 40%, the operation of fish processing businesses in five (5) hardest-hit prefectures has doubled to 80%.

Considerable progress has also been reported in areas affected by radiation. Clean-up efforts have reduced the levels of radioactivity around the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Hospitals, nursery homes and some vital institutions are either finished or nearing completion according to Japanese Red Cross.

The 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake reminded us that even a highly developed country such as Japan, with all its advanced technology, was still no match against nature’s fury.

Nevertheless, four years after the disaster, the Japanese people’s discipline and tenacity prevail as they continue to recover and rebuild their communities.

The northeast monsoon is still the dominant weather system inside the PH boundary.

Today, the islands of Batanes, Calayan and Babuyan will have partly cloudy skies with light precipitation. Meanwhile the rest of the country including Metro Manila will have favorable weather conditions, however PAGASA suggests continuous monitoring as isolated rains and thunderstorms are expected to happen within the day.

The state weather bureau is also monitoring the progress of El Nino. According to PAGASA Meteorologist Buddy Javier, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a reported weak El Nino. However, the full details regarding the matter will be discussed today at the conference to be held at PAGASA.

MTSAT Image from PAGASA.
MTSAT Image from PAGASA.

March 11, 2011: The Great East Japan Quake and Tsunami

Exactly four years ago, the people of Northeast Japan experienced the darkest and longest six minutes of their lives as a 9.0 magnitude earthquake shook their homes, setting off a chain of catastrophic events that killed 15,703 people and destroyed $300 billion worth of properties.

Let us remember the key events that unfolded on those fateful days, which began on March 11, 2011.