Last Sunday afternoon at about 2:11 the areas in the Davao and Cotabato regions previously hit by relatively strong earthquakes, were again shaken by another even stronger temblor. The intensity was measured by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) at 6.9 in the area that was identified as the epicenter – the town of Matanao in the Province of Davao del Sur. In neighboring provinces and cities the intensities vary. In Davao City the magnitude was at 5, while the cities and municipalities in nearby Sarangani, Cotabato, South Cotabato the intensities range from a high of 6 to a low of 2. But again, the shake caused a lot of fear to the already earthquake-traumatized population and local government officials.
The fear of the people could have been leveled up because at the time it hit there were incessant rains all over the Davao regions, and possibly in the rest of affected areas based on broadcast reports with live interviews from local officials and disaster risk reduction managers. Power was immediately lost and some roads in the areas were destroyed and rendered impassable to transportation. Good thing that in most of the areas hit, mobile communications signal was still available. Thus, radio and television networks were able to contact responsible officials for information updates on the level of destruction and the status of retrieval and relief operations.
The worst part of it is that last Sunday’s stronger earthquake brought to the ground some of the structures that were already considered in precarious condition after the three successive October quakes. And according to reports, some buildings that appeared to have survived unscathed by the previous temblors, have collapsed this time.
With four earthquakes of almost similar intensity and happening in basically the same places in Mindanao in a matter of two months, we can assume that the people in the areas could be asking themselves, and perhaps to God, this question: “Why is this nature’s wrath falling on us in an almost continuing basis?”
Indeed, yes. We too, have to ask, how come the places and the people in those areas are made to suffer the destruction? What have they done to make them deserving of such nature’s punishment?
Imagine the thousands of families in evacuation centers after the first three quakes already hoping to go home or be brought to relatively safe relocation sites suddenly stuck again because of the latest stronger earthquake!
We can only pity the local government units in the badly hit areas because up until last Sunday’s temblor, we are certain, their resources could have already hit ground level in meeting the requirements of the population displaced by the three earlier quakes.
Meanwhile, we are happy Davao City is so far lucky for not being hit by the stronger intensity. A listing given by Phivolcs of places with the corresponding intensities of the earthquake, the city only experienced intensity 5. Thus, the reported damage so far in buildings and other infrastructures has not reached the alarming level.
Of course, a high-rise residential-commercial condominium unit in downtown Davao previously affected by the earlier quakes, and some of the city’s malls were reported to have components falling. Some bridges and overpasses are placed under close monitoring by structural experts from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the City Engineer’s Office (CEO) after cracks were seen.
But while the luck still holds, may be it is already extremely imperative that the city continues to innovate and improve on the policies it is currently employing to mitigate the impact of disasters like earthquakes, floods, tsunamis and others.
One of these is the strict implementation of the National Building Code in the city. Another is the religious compliance of the provisions of the City Planning and Zoning ordinance. We also strongly recommend that the city launches a no-nonsense education program on the various kinds of natural and man-made disasters and their prevention and mitigation strategies.
We are also advocating for a city-operated radio station where programs can be devoted on the citizens’ education as well as communicating legitimate information on calamities. Or, the city can enter into an agreement with the government-owned broadcast media to use its facilities for its disaster education programs, or for sharing information during times of emergencies.
We cannot afford to add more to the chaos, and even casualties, if the local government allows itself to be subjugated by any Tom, Dick, and Harry dishing out unverified information coming from anyone in possession of communications gadgets.
The case of the erroneous supposed warning of a tsunami about to hit Davao City during the October 16, 2019 earthquake was more than a bad experience for a city that has almost 100 percent of its population have social media accounts.