Quake preparednessCebu Daily News
The Philippines sits on the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire. Earthquakes are commonplace here, but Monday’s temblor in the Visayas, which registered 6.9 on the Richter scale, showed that the phenomenon is unexpected among residents.
Yesterday the death toll climbed to 52, mostly from Negros Oriental province. Dozens of casualties are still unaccounted for. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said aftershocks are expected throughout the week since the blind fault that moved causing the quake has yet to settle down.
We condole with those who died, swallowed by the earth in Negros Oriental, and hold out hope that search and rescue operations may still yield survivors. The Department of Social Welfare and Development should get help to them quickly, aided by all citizens of good will.
In densely populated Cebu, where little damage to property was reported and the earthquake itself was buried under the hysteria that met a misinterpreted Phivolcs tsunami warning, officials and residents need to return to the issue of earthquake preparedness.
Some schools suspended classes a day after the quake so that engineers could check whether school buildings remain fit for use.
Inspections, however, should not be held off until the moment disaster strikes.
Building officials in the cities and towns should not wait for extended and more potent tremors to expose the shaky foundations and brittleness of buildings under their jurisdiction.
The Department of Education and Commission on Higher Education needs to step up training of students to respond to earthquakes.
There’s a DepEd manual for this, but actual drills need to made.
Earthquake drills will be in high demand as well in private firms and institutions. The sessions should be supervised by disaster councils and experts like the Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation and Philippine National Red Cross.
Religious groups and church leaders are expected to contribute with calls to prayer and calm. (The Catholic Church has at least five patron saints against earthquakes.)
Phivolcs and media organizations should collaborate on earthquake literacy for the public. With an epicenter in Negros, there was no chance of tidal waves smashing into Cebu City which lies in the east coast.
We can’t afford a repeat of Monday’s hysteria.
Too many disaster movies, and the reality of Japan’s recent tsunami, already make ordinary citizens easy targets for malicious rumor mongers.
More information, more drills, and more sobriety is needed in any emergency.
Finally, there’s the issue of civilian leadership. Who was in charge? And did we hear their voices in all the shouting?
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