‘Big One’ to waste Metro

NEWS SHAKER Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum stresses a point in his presentation before editors and reporters of The Manila Times.  PHOTO BY ABBY PALMONES

NEWS SHAKER Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum stresses a point in his presentation before editors and reporters of The Manila Times. PHOTO BY ABBY PALMONES

Port decentralization to mitigate possible business losses – Solidum

The feared “Big One” or the powerful earthquake that may strike Metro Manila “in our lifetime” may have a huge impact on the country’s economy as the country’s top volcanologist pointed out that Manila’s port area is vulnerable to liquefaction that would damage infrastructure and make roads impassable.

Renato Solidum Jr., director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), on Tuesday told editors and reporters of The Manila Times that structures along the port area in Manila are in danger of getting hit by liquefaction or the phenomenon when loose, water-rich sediments behave like liquid during strong ground-shaking.

He warned that a strong earthquake could possibly trigger a tsunami at the Manila Bay with waves as high as 3 meters crashing inland and barrel through 2-3 kilometers from the coastline.

“Aabutin kayo dito [You’ll get hit here],” he said referring to Intramuros district where The Manila Times offices are located.

Solidum has been going around conducting talks to explain the West Valley Fault system as well as possible scenarios of what could happen if a 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit Metro Manila.

“We don’t mean to scare people. We’re providing scientifically correct information so that we could all be better prepared,” he said.

Centering his discussion with The Manila Times on the possibilities in Intramuros where the newspaper’s offices are located and the nearby port area, Solidum added that heavy damage inflicted on the country’s primary port will leave the shipping industry at a standstill.

“Delivery of goods such as basic commodities to Luzon and other parts of the country will come to a halt,” he said.

Solidum then suggested that other ports in Luzon should be “activated” to decongest the Port of Manila and maximize operations of other ports such as Subic and improve access to other docking areas.

He said transfer of the docking of goods to other ports in the country should be done now as a precaution against the possible big earthquake.

“Malulugi ang Pilipinas kapag nasira ang port area ng Manila, so why not spread [the docking of goods to other ports]? It will also lessen the traffic,” Solidum added.

He said many port users oppose the decentralization of port operations as they are only looking from the perspective of business operations without considering the safety of their employees.

Solidum, who has been going around to explain the so-called “Big One” or the occurrence of a powerful earthquake once the West Valley Fault moves, is urging businesses to prepare a continuity plan, which charts their course of action when the inevitable happens.

He said companies should have their buildings and office locations evaluated and identify which areas are hazardous to their employees.

The companies should make a plan on what to do during and after the earthquake and each of the employees should be aware of this plan, according to him.

They should also always put the safety of their employees first before thinking about the profitability of their business since the human resource is their “focused asset,” he said.

“Your focused asset is your human resource. Help your employees.” Solidum added.

He suggested that companies should take the lead in being proactive in knowing what to do before, during and after an earthquake.

“Everybody should know how to respond, how you evacuate from a building,” the Phivolcs chief said.

Employees who get the right information and training should ideally then cascade their knowledge to their families and communities.

“If an earthquake strikes while an employee is on his way to work, he should not rush back home if he knows that his house is strong enough to resist the earthquake and his family members are knowledgeable of the emergency procedures. In the end, there will be business continuity as your human resource is protected,” Solidum said.

2nd riskiest country
In his presentation, the Phivolcs chief narrated that Manila was almost totally destroyed after a powerful earthquake struck 370 years ago.

The Manila Cathedral which was then under renovation was nearly levelled as aftershocks continued for about a week. An estimated 600 people were killed. The epicentre of the 1645 earthquake was at Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija.

Swiss Re, a risk analysis firm, conducted a study in 2013 that identified Manila as the second “riskiest city in the world” in terms of disasters, particularly earthquakes, next to Tokyo.

There are two major faultlines near Manila–the West Valley Fault and the Manila Trench.
State volcanologists believe that a 7.2 magnitude earthquake would strike once the West Valley Fault moves while a stronger 7.9 may occur from the Manila Trench.

Faultlines outside Metro Manila may still cause heavy damage, they said, citing the 7.3-magnitude Casiguran (Aurora) earthquake in 1969 that resulted in the collapse of the Ruby Tower in Santa Cruz (Manila) that killed over 200 people.

A study conducted in 2004 by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), titled the Metropolitan Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS), said 40 percent of the buildings in Metro Manila will be destroyed with fatalities estimated to reach in the mid-30,000 should an earthquake with such magnitude strike.

Solidum said the movement of the West Valley Fault will be more destructive.

Metro-wide drill
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will be conducting a region-wide earthquake drill on July 30.

Around five to six million individuals are expected to participate in the massive exercise,
MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino earlier said.

He said the drill will cover 16 cities and one town in Metro Manila or the National Capital Region.

To signal the start of the drill, sirens will blare, church bells will ring and fire alarms will go off.

The drill will start 10:30 a.m. and last for a full hour or until 11:30 a.m.

Metro Manila will be divided into four evacuation areas: Intramuros golf course in the west, Veterans Memorial Medical Center golf course in the north, Light Rail Transit 2 depot in the east, and Villamor Air Base golf course in the south.

Tolentino clarified that power and communication lines will not be interrupted during the drill.

“We expect an all-out participation of schools, hospitals, malls, call centers, government offices, among others,” he said.


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  1. it’s better if we also start praying that God spare us from this big earthquake or other catastrophe.

    • No matter how you pray, nothing can stop this from happening. So, better prepare yourself physically and mentally. Brace yourself to go back to the dark ages.