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» » » » » » » » » The Philippines braces for "The Big One"

JR Lopez Gonzales 1:53 PM 0

Last month, the Asian country of Nepal was rocked by a 7.8 earthquake killing nearly ten thousand people. After a couple of weeks, another quake with scale of 7.2 on the Moment Magnitude System hit taking the lives of many Nepalese. Yesterday, an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.6 shook Kanto Region in Japan.

With these unfolding natural events in the Asian Region where the Philippines belongs, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) recently released the Valley Fault System (VFS) Atlas which show the faultline and the localities projected to be affected should an earthquake occur. This fault wherein two plates bang against each other, has been by many scientists as already “ripe” that may possible move within our lifetime.

When this fault moves, it will produce a magnitude-7.2 earthquake (experts refer to as “The Big One”) which may hit any time within the densely-populated metropolis.

According to the collaborative study by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and PHILVOLCS, the last time an earthquake originated from the said fault was in 1658. The VFS is an active fault system in the Metropolitan Manila which is composed of two fault segments.

First is the 10-kilometer long East Valley Fault (EVF) in Rizal Province and the 100-km long West Valley Fault (WVF) that runs through the areas of Bulacan, Rizal, Quezon City, Marikina, Pasig, Makati, Taguig, Muntinlupa, Cavite, and Laguna.

Because of this incessant warning, the early rounds of which started more than a decade ago, the local governments were already notified and requested by the national agencies to prepare for such calamity as the damage can be very extensive.

According to the 2004 Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study, it was revealed that a 7.2 tremor in the metropolis may cause the destruction of about 40% of both residential and commercial buildings and may kill nearly 34,000 when it strikes during night time. Accordingly, about 84 barangays (smallest administrative regions) will possibly be affected by this earthquake.

A trickling of catastrophic events would then ensue: blackouts due to the collapse of 13-kilometer electric lines, destruction of about nine bridges, and the devastation of about half a million houses. Streets will also be wrecked and the connection of water will be cut off by the tremors. Sea and airports will also be in ruins.

And with this perceived apocalyptic event, the Philippine local government units are trying hard to respond to this catastrophe. Construction of structures in the five-meter buffer zones is greatly discouraged while residents are obliged to evacuate their dwelling within the buffer areas. Emergence of various tall buildings has to abide by the building code in order to withstand the earthquakes. The MMDA now has about 21 disaster response equipments in strategic areas around Manila which contain tools that can be used should The Big One strike.

Despite this, a more unified proactive response is still needed. MMDA Chief Francis Tolentino, in a press conference stressed out that the current quake readiness is “less than 5 of 10”. Communities need to be more serious in their emergency preparedness drills in order to ensure the safety of the millions who reside and work at one of the most populous cities in the world.

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