LESS than 24 hours after a strong earthquake (magnitude 6.6) rocked large parts of Luzon late Monday afternoon, another hit Eastern Visayas early afternoon yesterday at magnitude 6.2 (and which was also felt slightly in Western Visayas). We call on affected communities to remain vigilant for possible aftershocks and other effects of the temblors. As of this writing, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council was still assessing the damages, casualties and other effects of the earthquakes.
This is a very unfortunate incident. Initial reports say that at least eight people were killed. We hope there are no more fatalities. The strong temblors and its effects may have caused fear among our citizens. It is important that we keep our people aware of what they must do to be safe from the possible after effects.
Again, we reiterate our call for preparedness against earthquakes in all parts of the country as a temblor of the same magnitude can happen any time. According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), the Marikina Valley Fault Line in Metro Manila is ripe for movement but no one can predict the exact time when it will move. This makes preparedness for such eventuality even more important.
Among the priority steps that must be undertaken include the promotion of disaster-resilient urban development; ensuring the structural integrity of buildings and critical infrastructure; formulating emergency supply system of water, food and other necessities; and determining open spaces for safe refuge when tremors occur.
Earthquakes turn into major disasters due to unsafe structures — poorly built structures, buildings in inappropriate places, inadequate design and materials specification, and shortcuts in construction. Inspection during the construction of both public and private infrastructure is important. The additional expense required for making structures safe from earthquakes is worth it especially if it would save thousands of precious lives.
The government must ensure that all structures, especially bridges, school buildings and hospitals, are earthquake-proof through the conduct of a nationwide structural evaluation and by retrofitting these structures to allow them to withstand destructive earthquakes.