Another deadly warning
Published by the Visayan Daily Star Publications, Inc.
|NINFA R. LEONARDIA|
Editor-in-Chief & President
NIDA A. BUENAFE
MAJA P. DELY
ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA|
Pacific Strategies and Assessments, a multinational firm doing intelligence work for clients on business and security in the Philippines released a report titled “Metro Manila Earthquake Vulnerability Assessment” in August 2010, shortly after a massive earthquake killed thousands in Haiti. Among the several apocalyptic scenarios the PSA report predicted in case a 7.2 magnitude earthquake were to hit Metro Manila were: 34,000 people instantly dead, 24,000 dying in the rubble, 110,000 injured and needing immediate treatment.
It also estimated that at least 117,000 homes would either collapse or suffer heavy damage, rendering 1.2 million people homeless; that a fourth of public facilities such as schools, hospitals, firehouses and police stations would suffer damage; and that damage to water reservoirs and purification plants would result in a severe water shortage.
Pete Troilo, executive director of PSA, said that while the report had not been updated in the wake of the 8.9 magnitude quake that devastated northeastern Japan, the assumptions “still hold” and, in fact, have just gained added relevance.
The major factors that the PSA report held responsible for the vulnerability of Metro Manila, which can be assumed also applies to other cities in the Philippines when it comes to earthquakes, is the unreliable infrastructure system, poor building standards due to corruption in the construction and inspection process, the prevalence of informal settlers in high risk areas, and the lack of government resources and coordination.
The 8.9 magnitude quake that hit Japan last Friday is 100 times stronger than the 7.2 earthquake that the PSA based their assumptions on in its 2010 report and yet it is frighteningly clear that the estimated death toll for a theoretical 7.2 magnitude quake in Metro Manila already far exceeds the initial figures coming out of Japan. Even more worrying is the fact that, ever since the destruction at Haiti receded from the headlines, nothing much has changed in the Philippines when it comes to any effort in protecting our buildings and citizenry from powerful earthquakes.
Will the destruction in a country as earthquake-ready as Japan spur our government officials and building owners into action or are we doomed to more of the same? Here in Bacolod, which is currently in the midst of an unprecedented building boom, it would be wise for city officials, contractors, and the developers to reassess their standards and priorities so that if and when a powerful quake does hit us, we have better chances of surviving.*