Earthquake is a natural phenomenon that is expected to happen anytime yet still sends shiver to the bones for reasons as myriad as one could think of. It is a natural calamity that is as unsurprising as other catastrophic events like the twisters, cyclones and sand storms yet extremely feared of. It is, however, not like tropical cyclones which path and strength could be predicted, because the exact time and location of earthquake occurrence could not be foretold. Twisters and sand storms could be avoided because they produce signs and warnings which people could heed.
Too sad that, in spite of the fast-paced advancement in scientific technology, highly developed states have yet to devise the technology that will help authorities detect the future occurrence of tremors and destructive quakes and ward off imminent danger on lives and properties. Although there are attempts towards this end the same still needs to be tested and guaranteed faultless and accurate. Science and technology wizards, including students who are adept in this discipline, are developing the equipment or gadgets that can help detect possible earthquake attack.
Since none is yet widely known to help warn people that an earthquake is about to happen apart from norms and experiences, not one of the citizens is on guard against earthquake. All that state authorities could do is remind the people on what to do and where to go when earthquake strikes, just as the happening of the magnitude 7.6 tremor at 8:47 in the evening of August 31. Good for family members who are confined in a particular venue the worry is less. There could be a different scenario had it happened at day time when family members are apart from one another as they are in their respective places of occupation like workplace and school.
Thanks to God Almighty! Although the epicenter is over a hundred kilometers off the coast of Guiuan, Eastern Samar, no heavy wave or tsunami was felt in the coastline of Eastern Visayas and the damage was at minimal range or about P13 million largely on infrastructure. Above all, there was no fatality so far reported.
According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), “Initial reports of sea level disturbance received by PHIVOLCS indicate that the tsunami generated by this earthquake did not reach life-threatening heights. The National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) reported the tsunami in Surigao City with initial heights of 16 centimeters and 19 centimeters at 10:48 PM. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) also reported a three centimeter tsunami recorded by the tide gauges in Legaspi City at 9:43 PM and Davao City at 9:50 PM. Waves not higher than half meter were also reportedly observed in Pilar, Surigao del Norte in Siargao Island about 10 minutes after the earthquake. No bigger tsunami associated with this earthquake is expected to follow after this cancellation.” At 12:01 AM of September 1 (Philippine standard time) all tsunami alerts were lifted.”
Besides the fact of the quake’s being less destructive, not triggering a so-called devastating tsunami, the citizens’ preparedness in times of disasters like typhoons, flashfloods and earthquakes is another positive note. The local disaster risk reduction and management councils through their respective quick response team were on their toes transporting residents to safer grounds and warning locals of possible tsunami and aftershocks. This is a favorable result of the government proactive stance in mitigating the dismal effect of calamities. Disaster preparedness used to be a call which at the turn of time became a thrust of the national government filtering down to the provincial, city and municipal then further down to the barangay level.
In the website of Phivolcs, it could be gleaned that the country was visited by twelve destructive earthquakes. On August 2, 1968 magnitude 7.3 (Intensity 8) quake in Casiguran (Aurora); March 17, 1973 Ms 7.0 off Raguy Gulf in Calauan, Quezon; August 17, 1976 Ms 7.9 off Moro Gulf along Cotabato trench creating a killer tsunami where about 6,000 people died; August 17, 1983 Ms 6.5 (Int. 7) in Laoag; February 8, 1990 Ms 6.8 (Int. 8) in Tagbilaran, Bohol which was felt in Palo, Leyte; June 14, 1990 Ms. 7.1 in Culasi, Antique; the “killer Earthquake” on July 16, 1990 in Luzon caused by the strike-slip movement along Philippine Fault Zone.
November 15, 1994 Ms 7.1 Mindoro earthquake in the Philippine Fault Zone; May 27, 1996 Ms 5.6 (Int. 6) in Bohol; June 07, 1999 Ms 5.1 in Bayugan, Agusan del Sur in Philipine Fault Zone; March 6, 2002 Ms 6.8 at Cotabato trench in Palimbang; and February 15, 2003 Ms 6.2 in Masbate by movement of the Cotabato trench.
People should take note the earthquake is not surprising to happen in the Philippines which lies on the Pacific Ring of Fire. The Philippine Fault Zone (as can be seen on Phivolcs index map) transects across the archipelago. The zone traverses Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Infanta (Quezon), Guinayangan, Bondoc Peninsula, Masbate Island, Leyte Island and Eastern Mindanao.
The PFZ Central Fault Zone transects Biliran, Cabucgayan ( both in Biliran province); Villaba, Carigara, Ormoc, Albuera, Burauen, Baybay, and Abuyog (all in Leyte province); and Hingatungan, Sogod and San Juan (all in Southern Leyte). In Samar Island there are lineament that found traces of active faults or trenches identified as southern, northern and central lineaments located at the western portion of the island. Tacloban City, Borongan City (Eastern Samar) and Catarman (Northern Samar) and major part of Leyte Island are identified by Phivolcs in its liquefaction susceptibility map.
Whether man-made or natural, disasters could strike at anytime. With or without our survival kit with us at the strike of the catastrophe, it is imperative that we at all times be calm and keep our presence of mind. More than anything, let us pray more fervently to God (and among Catholics to the Holy Trinity and Our Lady, Mother of Christ) for our safety and that of our loved ones as well as other people, too.
In the August 31 quake where no life-threatening tsunami took place, many believed that it was God’s grace that spared the localities along the coast facing Pacific Ocean from greater harm and damage. All that believers could utter, “Praise and thanks to God Almighty!”
By: Eileen Nazareno-Ballesteros
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