Notes On The Oct. 15 Earthquake

In just a month, two natural calamities struck the Visayas group of islands:

  • An earthquake last Oct. 15. The nearby province of Bohol is greatly affected, with its historic churches ruined, its famed Chocolate Hills chipped and thousands of people displaced. In the province where I reside now, damaged structures include the controversial Cebu International Convention Center, Cebu City Medical Center and the belfry of the Basilica.
  • The rage of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) last Nov. 8, one of the strongest storms ever recorded. The region where I come from, Eastern Visayas, is the most devastated, its people the most affected. Tacloban City, the capital of the region, is kind of wiped off the map, a great percentage of its structures destroyed and has reported the most number of deaths. A disgraced police officer said the number of deaths could have reached 10,000.
About the earthquake, I was at home when it happened. At first I thought the ground movement came from large vehicles cruising the small street in front of the boarding house I am residing or that North Korea has successfully tested a nuclear bomb.

The Chocolate Hills after the earthquake. Taken from a Philippine Air Force helicopter and posted on the website www.bohol.ph

The Chocolate Hills after the earthquake. Taken from a Philippine Air Force helicopter and posted on the website http://www.bohol.ph

I was looking at the mirror when I felt the ground shaking. I was not alarmed at first. I only ran out of the house when a board-mate shouted to me to do so.

I was not kind of much alarmed over that 7.2 magnitude earthquake, to tell the truth. I had read years ago that about 400-500 ‘earthquakes’ or earth movements occur everyday, most of them weak for the inhabitants on the earth’s crust to feel. That earthquake was one of the few strong ones.

The belfry of the Basilica damaged. Photo from Jose Farrugia and posted in www.rappler.com

The belfry of the Basilica damaged. Photo from Jose Farrugia and posted in http://www.rappler.com

However, I cannot help but to panic or to feel alarmed at times because of a few things:

  • Many structures in the metropolitan are weak or not strong enough to endure strong earth movements. Many builders and engineers in this country (known for its quick fixes and graft and corruption) do not follow the building code. Or the current building code is not like that of Japan.
  • People panic. Panic is contagious.
  • Cracks at the office building. One time work had to be suspended because the city building engineer had to check the building’s integrity and many workers were afraid working while aftershocks were happening.
  • No electricity, no water. After the earthquake occurred, there was a power failure and with it, a loss of water supply for some time.
The day after Oct. 15, we had to endure some aftershocks, some couple of times a day and even at dawn and night. Perhaps it is time we get accustomed to earthquakes. It is high time we have to upgrade the building code, implement new construction and building practices and use excellent building materials. We must now learn about earthquakes and understand the country’s location on the Ring of Fire.

(My post on super typhoon Yolanda will follow soon.)

Thanks goodness that the earthquake happened on a holiday. Had it happened on a regular day, the loss of lives and the damages would be unthinkable. Thanks to the Muslims who were observing a feast called Eid al-Adha that day.
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