The Impact of the "BIG ONE"

by Ms Angie Lou G. Padernilla  June 5, 2015

"Earthquakes are among the most deadly natural hazards" as described by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Other than the fact that it’s impossible to predict the exact date and time on which it will strike a certain place, scientists had stated that earthquakes are commonly the outcome of the "movements along faults as a result of compression in the Earth's crust" (Geoscience Australia 2015). It is more dangerous when it occurs in populated areas with massive infrastructures resulting to thousands of deaths and economic repercussions.

            Historically speaking, this natural disaster has caused a lot of misfortune to people around the world. Have you ever heard about the magnitude 8 earthquake in Shensi, China in 1556 with an estimated 830,000 deaths? Although it is a bit early or thousands of years too early for us to even know, it simply shows that even before, earthquakes have been causing a lot of trouble to us (NBCNews.com 2015). How about the recent 2011 earthquake plus tsunami in Japan which shook the world and caused fear? It's true that Japan is a rich and powerful country, economically speaking, and another proof that economic standing of a State is not a factor for having an earthquake (Oskin 2015). And this year, the earthquake in Nepal which alerted the higher authorities in the Philippines, to be more careful and ready at all times.

            Being part of the Pacific Ring of Fire "which includes about 90% of the world's volcanoes and where a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches and volcanic belts are situated, and plate movements occur" (Rappler 2015), the Philippines had experienced this natural disaster as well. One of the most devastating records of earthquakes in the Philippines happened in 1990. Northern Luzon was hit by an earthquake with more than two thousand dead and more than 300 million USD worth of property damage (Rappler 2015). The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) had been continuously warning us about the next "Big One" which will involve Metro Manila, the capital city of the Philippines and considered as one of the most populated areas in the country. Dr. Arturo Daag of Phivolcs stated that "200 years is the return period for another major earthquake in the same area."

            Earlier this May, PHIVOLCS with the help of other partner agencies released a handbook about the "Valley Fault System" or VFS that tackles and shows maps with detail about the areas that are above and near the fault line. This is not intended to scare the citizens living in these particular areas, but the recent news about the Nepal earthquake had caused panic and doubt. In addition to that, the media had been pestering the viewers with different scenarios and predictions about the death toll which really is a scary number.

            The "Big One" will happen. Maybe not today, not this month, or not this year, but it is always important to know that each of us must be prepared. The PHIVOLCS (2011) statement about it is that "the fault is ripe for movement. There is a high probability that it will move in the future, we just cannot say the exact time." The Valley fault system is divided into two, the west and the east. The following are the affected cities and municipalities: "San Mateo, Rizal to Taguig on the south and continues to Makati, Marikina, Paranaque, Pasig and Muntinlupa" (Almaden 2013). When the movement happens, an estimated "quake can reach magnitude 7.2 with casualties predicted to be as high as 35,000 and some 120,000 more injured and more than 3 million people will need to be evacuated" (Almaden 2013).

            Some people believe that an earthquake itself is not that dangerous, though, the danger lies to the impacts or the effects of it. In fact, "most earthquake-related deaths are caused by the collapse of structures and the construction practices play a tremendous role in the death toll of an earthquake" (Ammon 2001). The shaking of the ground can damage buildings, bridges, and houses. Falling debris, destroyed electrical circuits, unattended burners and the likes are more dangerous than the earthquake itself, and yet it was earthquakes that cause these problems (Ammon 2001). Not only the infrastructures were damaged by the movement of the faults, mountains and hills are also affected by this which results to landslides. It is more dangerous when a landslide took place near national roads or residential areas (Ammon 2001). And of course, if an earthquake occurs, tsunami alerts are raised to the places near the bodies of waters. "The sudden offset changes the elevation of the ocean and initiates a water wave that travels outward from the region of sea-floor disruption" (Ammon 2001). 

            Other than being mentally and physically prepared, each of us must also check our homes. Our houses must also be ready for earthquakes too. The PHIVOLCS had released some guidelines in order to check whether or not your house can withstand an earthquake. First of all, the one who built it is important, they should be a licensed architect or engineer. Second, one must make sure that the house is not built before 1992 to make sure that the house is not old and follows the rules written in Republic Act No. 7279 which is "an act to provide for a comprehensive and continuing urban development and housing program, establish the mechanism for its implementation, and for other purposes" in order to make sure that the house is strongly built. Third, if it was damaged before, it should be noted that it is essential to repair it. Fourth, shapes of the house is important. The regular houses, or the ones with symmetrical, rectangular, box-type, or simple can withstand an earthquake more. Fifth, if the house was expanded, make sure that it was designed by a licensed architect or engineer. Sixth, the external walls should be at least six-inches thick. Seventh, make sure that there are steel bars used in the spacing of the walls. Eight, the foundation should be a reinforced concrete. Ninth, make sure that the soil condition is hard or it is compose of rock or stiff soil. And lastly, tenth, make sure that the overall condition of the house is good. Upon buying your own property, it is important to consider the location and the developer before settling down.  

 

References:

Natural Environment Research Council. 2015. "Earthquakes". Accessed May 28, 2015. http://www.bgs.ac.uk/discoveringGeology/hazards/earthquakes/home.html

Goscience Astralia. n.d. "What Causes Earthquakes?". Accessed May 28, 2015. http://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/hazards/earthquake/basics/causes

NBCNews.com. 2015. "The Top 10 Deadliest Earthquakes in History". Accessed May 28, 2015. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/42029974/ns/world_news-asia_pacific/t/top-deadliest-earthquakes-history/

Oskin, B. 2015. "Japan Earthquake & Tsunami of 2011: Facts and Information". Accessed May 28, 2015. http://www.livescience.com/39110-japan-2011-earthquake-tsunami-facts.html

Rappler.com. 2015. "MAP: Strongest earthquakes in the Philippines". Accessed May 28, 2015. http://www.rappler.com/science-nature/33807-map-strongest-earthquakes-in-ph

PHIVOLCS. 2015. "PHIVOLCS, OCD launch Valley Fault System Atlas". Accessed May 28, 2015. http://www.phivolcs.dost.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_

Ammon, C., J. 2001. "Earthquake Effects (Shaking, Landslides, Liquefaction, and Tsunamis). Accessed May 28, 2015.  http://eqseis.geosc.psu.edu/~cammon/HTML/Classes/IntroQuakes/Notes/earthquake_effects.html

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