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7.2 Sarangani quake raises Metro fears

A POWERFUL magnitude-7.2 earthquake hit Sarangani Saturday morning, the third big one in the country since February.

A 6.7 struck Surigao last February 10, followed by the usual aftershocks. A 5.5 shook Batangas last April 4, followed by a series of tremors, including a 5.9.

After the Sarangani earthquake, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported damage to the Glan seaport and four persons injured from falling debris. Intensity-5 tremors were later felt in General Santos City and various areas in Davao Occidental, South Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat.

This latest earthquake was hardly noticed, as only three people were reported injured.

If a 7.2 earthquake had struck a highly developed part of the country, it would have been a different story. For years Metro Manila has been warned that a “big one” could come at any time and this “big one” would be in the range of magnitude 7.2.

We have long come to consider earthquakes as normal in our part of the world, which is in the “Ring of Fire” of active volcanos around the Pacific Ocean. The Philippines is also riddled with underground faults, masses of land grinding against each other beneath the surface of the earth, causing periodic earthquakes.

A major fault line runs across Metro Manila, from the Sierra Madre mountains in the northeast, between Quezon City and Marikina, down to Makati, Taguig, and Muntinlupa. This West Valley Fault could move at any time, according to the Philippine

Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) based on its history in the last 1,400 years. And when it does, the resulting earthquake – the “big one” – is expected to be a magnitude 7.2.

This explains why Saturday’s Davao Occidental earthquake raised so much apprehension among many people. Previous ones had been in the range of magnitude 6.7, 5.5, and 5.9. Suddenly we have a 7.2.

The government has long prepared in the event this expected “big one” strikes in Metro Manila. It might be judicious to review and update them, to ensure that deaths and other casualties are kept down to a minimum, hospitals are ready for all emergencies, water and electric power services are not quickly restored, and peace and order is maintained.

One project suggested by Directo Renato Solidum Jr. of Phivolcs is for Engineering Missions to fan out in communities to check on residential buildings, much like Medical Missions checking on the health of local people. This would be a big part of the preparations of both the government and local residents.

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