Last Sunday, 11 January 2015, I was having a dream at around 3:30 am when I felt myself shake in my dream. I then felt myself in that state we often are in between wakeful hours and deep sleep, and before I knew it, I was fully awake. That shaking wasn’t imaginary, it was real: an earthquake!
Later that day, we learned it had originated near Zambales, and had reached a magnitude of 6.0, tectonic in origin. We experienced an intensity of 4. (Link to news report here)
Fortunately, it lasted very short, only around five seconds, but it was enough to get my mother calling the night watch guard downstairs to assess the situation, and for my two clan chat groups (my mother’s side on Viber, my father’s side on WhatsApp) to be abuzz at that odd hour. For my part, I immediately checked in with Facebook, and got my first replies in minutes.
When I read the third comment, I knew I had reason to be afraid. Our house, and village for that matter, stands very near (but, thankfully, not directly on) the West Valley Fault of the Marikina Valley Fault (Marikina is almost right beside our house – we live at the tip where three cities meet, namely Quezon City, Marikina, and Pasig. An amusing thought). It runs from the Sierra Madre mountain range down to Laguna, passing eastern Quezon City, western Marikina, western Pasig, eastern Makati, part of Taguig, and Muntinlupa in the process.
We all know fault lines are the places where two tectonic plates meet, and when these move against each other as a loving couple in an embrace in bed would (as is Nature’s wont), the result is an earthquake felt especially by the living things on top. By that, I mean us. And the Philippines lies within the Pacific Ring of Fire, hence volcanoes and earthquakes.
As if this weren’t enough, studies have shown that the West Markina Valley Fault is actually being expected to move again – in the near future. Even my feng shui master godfather also warned us about this. In June 2014, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) director Renato Solidum, Jr. held a summit about this, warning Metro Manileños to be prepared. The fault line has moved 4 times in the past 1,400 years, and on average moves every 400 years, with an error of 10 to 100 years. The last earthquake it caused was in 1658, 357 years ago.
This means only one thing: Metro Manila is ripe to be hit by a major earthquake.
Solidum says it can be as high as magnitude 7.2 and can occur anywhere within the West Marikina Valley Fault. Anywhere, but an earthquake especially of this strength is felt far away, and places even a hundred kilometers away can be shaken up – meaning Metro Manila and the adjacent provinces had all better prepare. The WVMF is 90 kilometers long.
Worse, the Fault also runs through Angat Dam, in Norzagaray, Bulacan (beside Angat itself). Angat Dam supplies all the water to Metro Manila, and can hold 850 million cubic meters of water. It also happens to need rehabilitation, meaning that in the event of a large earthquake, it may collapse or break, and the only natural protection Metro Manila – which may be in recovery mode from said quake – would have would be the mountains of Montalban, Rizal.
Based on reports following Solidum’s announcement, which comes with studies performed by the Risk Assessment Project (RAP) in partnership between PHIVOLCS and Geoscience Australia, the following figures are estimated:
- The predicted earthquake can reach as high as magnitude 7.2.
- Over 100,000 residential buildings are at risk of heavy damage.
- About 37,000 deaths and 148,000 injuries in Metro Manila and Rizal are predicted (Metro Manila’s population is about 10 million) – six times more than the death toll from Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).
- 5,524 deaths and 23,103 serious injuries in Quezon City alone.
- 4,713 deaths and 14,707 serious injuries in Barangays Batasan Hills, Commonwealth, Bagong Silangan, Holy Spirit, and Matandang Balara alone.
- 5,449 deaths and 21,620 serious injuries in Manila City alone.
- 5,524 deaths and 23,103 serious injuries in Quezon City alone.
Furthermore, according to Solidum, the number of deaths will be dependent on the number of buildings that will collapse. The latter can happen if they are weak, poorly designed, and poorly constructed, even if they are far from the fault line, and especially if the ground they stand on is softer (a process called liquefaction), which is the case near bodies of water, such as the Marikina River and the Manila Bay.
Unlike typhoons, which can be forecasted up to a certain degree, there is no technology yet that can do the same for earthquakes. The most we can do is to make estimations based on historical records.
As such, the best solution, as is in all other aspects of life, is to be prepared. For Solidum, the most important preparation is that buildings, houses, and infrastructures should be assessed for physical integrity and be made resistant to earthquakes and fires. The same applies for major lifelines, including water, power, and communications supplies.
Whether or not you live on top of, near, or far from the WMVF, I believe it is important to have infrastructures assessed – just in case and to be prepared. It could be as simple as having an engineer visit your house and have it checked. But the reality is also that others are more at risk due to their positions relative to the Fault.
This blog was written about the West Marikina Valley Fault, and is very informative and detailed as to where the Fault runs through in Metro Manila, including communities that can be hardest hit because they sit on top of the fault. The author also wrote on the Angat Dam dangers, here, and has kindly provided the reading public with three maps, the links of which are as follows:
- PHIVOLCS-derived map of the West Marikina Valley Fault through Metro Manila (north is to the right)
- Google Maps-derived map of the West Marikina Valley Fault through Metro Manila (north is to the right)
- Overlay, proving a very high level of accuracy (north is to the right)
Another important way to prepare is to set up an efficient and effective relief and recovery system. This should be done – and tested – beforehand, so that in the event of a real calamity, the system can be launched into action instantly without encountering the birth pains that are natural in projects of any kind. The Philippines is known for its bayanihan principle in which community members give each and everyone else a hand in need – as exemplified by the Concluding Mass of Pope Francis at Quirino Grandstand, where devotees who were in front passed the pieces of Bread of Life to their fellowmen behind who could not reach the priests. Now, it is time to structure and test it in preparation for a major earthquake.
And, of course, since I advocate personal CSR, the first step we can all take is to prepare ourselves and our most basic of communities – our families and our own homes. When we ourselves are prepared, then we have ammo to help others as well. I’ll write a follow-up post to this one elaborating into how we can personally prepare for and survive an earthquake or disaster.
Diola, C. (2014, June 16). Phivolcs chief warns 7.2 earthquake can isolate Manila. The Philippine Star. Retrieved from [link].
Grande, G. (2014, July 18). A disaster waiting to happen: West Valley Fault quake. ABS-CBN News. Retrieved from [link].
Luces, K. (2013, July 10). The next big quake in Metro Manila may hit within our lifetime. GMA News Online. Retrieved from [link].