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A 5.5-magnitude earthquake struck Batangas last Tuesday, sending portions of the walls of the Taal Basilica crashing down, followed by 60 aftershocks that were felt all over Southern Luzon and Mindoro as well as Metro Manila and Bulacan.
Before Batangas, there was Surigao in February, then Caraga, Davao, Socksargen, and Surigao again. Last Saturday, a series of tremors hit Batangas again, the strongest at 6.0. The earthquakes reminded many people that there is indeed a standing warning of a possible “Big One” that could come at anytime.
This fear is based on the fact that there is a West Valley Fault deep in the ground that runs from the Sierra Madre mountains southwest towards Metro Manila, passing between Quezon City and Marikina City, across the Pasig River, through east Makati City, Taguig City, and Muntinlupa City. This fault has moved four times in the last 1,400 years, on the average moving every 400 years, according to Renato Solidum Jr., director of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs). The last time it moved was in 1658, 357 years ago. A 7.2-magnitude earthquake is possible if it moves now, he said.
This explains why Metro Manila officials have been holding earthquake drills, informing people, particularly school children in classes what they should do in case the long-feared “Big One” strikes. Last year’s ”Shake Drill” included Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna, the provinces lying on top of the West Valley Fault along with Metro Manila.
It is best to be prepared should a major earthquake hit us. We must be ready with emergency kits containing medicine along with food, water, and other basic needs in case of a sudden loss of electric power and other services. An estimated 34,000 people could die in a major earthquake in Metro Manila with its many buildings which were not built to withstand a magnitude of 7.2. Many more could suffer and die in succeeding weeks if the government and the people themselves are not prepared.
Last week’s Batangas earthquake and the Surigao earthquakes before that should keep us on alert that there is a real danger that could befall us at anytime. It is a danger with solid scientific basis and it is best to be prepared when it strikes.