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NOT YET THE BIG ONE

Public response to quake better than before – Phivolcs chief

/ 07:26 AM April 24, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — The people’s response to the 6.1-magnitude earthquake that shook Luzon on Monday afternoon showed more readiness for disasters, the chief of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said on Tuesday.

“We are better prepared than before,” Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum said.

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Strict inspection

“But we need to do more. For earthquake preparedness, it’s not just the people who should be preparing, but buildings have to also be structured properly,” Solidum said.

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Local governments should be more strict in building inspection and in the issuance of permits for building design and construction, he said.

“We have a good building code, but unfortunately, this is not always followed,” Solidum said.

“We need to educate people … Most people would not know the basic structural standards unless they are engineers,” he said.

In 2014, Phivolcs and the Japan International Cooperation Agency launched a 12-point questionnaire for homeowners to assess the readiness of their houses for earthquakes.

The questionnaire, designed like a hollow-block house, was called “How Safe Is My House?” and recommended features based on the National Building Code and the Structural Code of the Philippines.

Solidum said the damage an earthquake could cause did not depend only on the distance from the epicenter, but also on the character of the ground and the design and build of the structure.

Buildings can collapse “even if the earthquake is not so strong” because “the structure is weak,” he said.

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Old buildings, such as churches, also need strengthening to ensure their structural soundness, he said.

More training

While the response of schools and offices to Monday’s quake was laudable, Solidum said more training should be done in places like shopping malls, where there are always big crowds.

“Unlike in schools and offices where people are trained with drills regularly, those in [shopping] malls have no opportunity for regular drills,” he said.

In the absence of drills, shopping malls and other public places should have signs telling people what to do in case disaster strikes, he said.

“We definitely have to do more because if we look at Monday’s quake, it’s not even a major earthquake yet,” Solidum said.

‘Big One’

Phivolcs and other government agencies have been preparing for the “Big One,” a hypothetical temblor caused by movement in the West Valley Fault.

The 100-kilometer fault, which last moved in 1658, stretches from Bulacan to Laguna provinces, cutting across Metro Manila.

Scientists say it moves every 400 years, meaning the threat of a 7.2-magnitude quake is getting closer.

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TAGS: Luzon earthquake 2019, Phivolcs, Renato Solidum
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