1,000 aftershocks pummel Batangas
Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) - April 10, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - An “earthquake swarm” continued to hit Batangas yesterday as the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) advised people to stay calm but remain vigilant for the “Big One.”

Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said an earthquake swarm has been going on since Tuesday last week, and seismologists have recorded over 1,000 aftershocks, including Saturday’s four “moderately sized” tremors.

He said there was nothing to be alarmed about, as this was expected of a gradually moving fault line. Solidum said an earthquake swarm typically lasts for days or weeks.

At 11:14 a.m. yesterday, a magnitude-3.9 aftershock struck five kilometers southwest of Mabini, Batangas.

It was reportedly felt at Intensity 4 in Tingloy, Batangas; Intensity 3 in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro; and Intensity 2 in San Teodoro, Oriental Mindoro.

Phivolcs also appealed to the public to refrain from spreading text messages and using social media to warn about an Intensity 8 earthquake that will supposedly hit Luzon following last Saturday’s tremors in Batangas and nearby areas.

“In case of another felt earthquake, do the duck/drop, cover and hold and move to a safe area after the shaking,” the agency said in a statement.

Phivolcs stressed there is no reliable technology in the world that can confidently predict the date, time and location of large earthquakes.

“We appeal to the public not to send or forward any information that may further cause confusion and fear among people,” it said.

Traumatized residents of Mabini, Batangas spent the night on the streets fearing their houses would collapse following two major aftershocks on Saturday.

Two of the four quakes on Saturday registered magnitudes of 6 and 5.6, which struck two minutes apart. The two quakes were felt at Intensity 7 in Mabini.

Tremors were also felt in other parts of Luzon, including Metro Manila.

Reports reaching the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) as of yesterday said the earthquakes also damaged electrical lines.

“Based on the Rapid Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis (RDANA) conducted by the Regional DRRM Council Calabarzon, some roads in Batangas City, Agoncillo and Bauan, Batangas are not passable due to minor landslides,” the NDRRMC reported.

“There were schools, markets and houses reported to have partial damage. Intermittent power supply is being experienced in Tingloy, Mabini, San Luis and Batangas City,” the report added. 

The NDRRMC said one resident from Mabini, Batangas was injured after being hit by glass shards.

Reports said evacuation of families and individuals was reported in Mabini, Bauan, Taal, Tingloy, San Pascual, Lipa City, Agoncillo and San Luis, all in Batangas. 

The NDRRMC said its members from various government agencies have convened to discuss the effects and initial assessment of the magnitude-6.0 earthquake.

The NDRRMC gave assurance it is constantly monitoring the effects and response operations on the earthquake-stricken communities. 

Local disaster officials advised mountaineers and scuba divers of the adverse effects of the earthquake that struck the province.

Provincial disaster management council chief Lito Castro said the local government of Cuenca had released an advisory to all mountaineers to refrain from climbing Mt. Maculot this Lenten season.

Castro noted Mabini Mayor Bitrics Luistro had advised scuba divers planning to spend the Holy Week in the dive capital of the province.

A veteran dive master has advised against diving in the waters off Mabini, saying the seafloor is still murky following last Saturday’s tremor.

The Batangas disaster officials said several roads in Agoncillo, Bauan and Batangas City were temporarily closed because of landslides but they were cleared yesterday.

On the other hand, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said the department is prepared to provide more support to affected areas in the province.

“The DSWD remains on standby for any contingencies and emergencies connected to the earthquake and its impact. We ask Filipinos to prepare their families and communities for possible aftershocks and to remain vigilant,” Taguiwalo said.

Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu, whose congressional district was severely hit by the weekend tremors, said many of his constituents are in dire need of food and other relief.

The Big One

In light of the strong tremors that hit Batangas, Solidum advised people in Metro Manila to stay prepared and be vigilant for the “Big One,” which could be generated by the 100-km West Valley Fault.

Solidum said the Big One – the quake that the public is preparing for in Metro Manila – is still possible.

He said the fault that triggered strong earthquakes in Batangas in the past days is different from the West Valley Fault, which is capable of generating a magnitude-7.2 quake that could kill up to 34,000 people and injure 100,000 others due to collapsed buildings.

Phivolcs had been warning that the West Valley Fault, which runs from Marikina to Laguna, cutting through parts of eastern and southern Metro Manila, is “ripe” for movement.

He said the magnitude 6 quake in Batangas on Saturday could be the Big One only for Mabini, Batangas.

The earthquake swarm happening in Batangas would not lessen the danger of a big quake in Metro Manila, Solidum stressed. 

Sen. Loren Legarda said this is the best time for everyone to prepare for the Big One.

Following the series of earthquakes that struck Batangas within a month, Legarda said this highlights the need for heightened preparedness in the event of another quake.

“We never know when an earthquake will occur. But we should know what to do before, during and after the occurrence of such events. Regular safety drills should be done to familiarize citizens with safety and disaster preparedness measures,” Legarda said.

“The key to effective disaster prevention is planning. It is important to know if our location is near an active fault and prone to liquefaction or landslide, which may cause damage to houses or buildings. We have to ensure that buildings are not standing on active faults. Evaluation and retrofitting of public and private infrastructure is crucial in ensuring that buildings, bridges and other similar structures can withstand strong quakes,” she added.

Legarda said all sectors should be involved in preparing for the Big One or the projected 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Metro Manila.

She said disaster management agencies, local government units, community leaders and regular citizens should all take part in preparing for a major earthquake.

Starting with infrastructure, Legarda said the efforts to make buildings and other structures safe should be strengthened.

She said no expense should be spared when it comes to make structures safe from earthquakes.

“The additional expense required for making structures safe from earthquakes is worth it especially if it would save thousands of lives,” Legarda said.

According to Legarda, ensuring the structural integrity of buildings and preparedness measures for earthquakes can significantly reduce the impacts projected in the 2004 Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS).

Based on the MMEIRS, without the necessary interventions, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Metro Manila could destroy 40 percent of residential buildings, damage 35 percent of all public buildings, kill 34,000 people, injure 114,000 individuals, and the ensuing fires will also result in 18,000 additional fatalities.

One concrete but simple measure that Legarda said should be done in all communities is the installation of an early warning system to alert residents during emergency situations.

She cited the Municipal Disaster Management Radio Communication Network of Minato City in Japan where every 5 p.m., the instrumental version of the Japanese folk song “Yuyaku Koyake” is heard in speakers all around the city.

Legarda stressed the daily alert is a way to ensure that the broadcast system and speakers are working correctly because the speaker network is used to warn people of emergency situations, especially disaster warnings.

“We also need to have this kind of early warning system in the country, so that wherever people are they are informed of important announcements especially in emergency situations such as before, during and after disasters, thereby reducing risks, casualties and damage,” Legarda said.

1-Ang Edukasyon party-list Rep. Salvador Belaro Jr. said he will seek an investigation into possible violations in the building code for structures that have been affected by the recent earthquake.

He claimed some of the structures damaged in recent earthquakes in Batangas are relatively new.

“If the National Building Code and its implementing rules were followed faithfully, such damage should not have happened,” Belaro said. 

Some of the structures were old churches in Batangas.

Belaro said he would initiate a probe in the House of Representatives on whether these structures have complied with the building code.

 “I will shortly file a resolution seeking an immediate investigation into how those damaged buildings were built and whether they obeyed the law,” Belaro said.  With Michael Punongbayan, Marvin Sy, Arnell Ozaeta, Rainier Allan Ronda, Delon Porcalla

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