FFE Magazine

Can Metro Manila withstand an earthquake?

by FFE PH News staff

In the wake of the devastating earthquake which struck Bohol and Cebu, concerns over disaster preparedness in Metro Manila have increased. Central to this is the question of whether the city can withstand a 7.2 magnitude quake.

Experts warned that if an earthquake similar to Bohol would hit Metro Manila, an estimated Php2 trillion in properties will be destroyed. Ishmael Ngarag of Phivolcs’ Seismological Observation and Earthquake Prediction Divison (SOEPD) said that just a 6-magnitude quake will lead to serious damage to buildings in Metro Manila.

Experts have also long warned that the Marikina or West Valley fault line has been long ripe for a large quake. The fault runs from the Sierra Madre mountains to Tagaytay and moves every 200 to 400 years. They also said that unlike typhoons and storms, earthquakes cannot be predicted.

The 2004 Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS) showed that a major earthquake in the metro will result in power outages, collapsed buildings, houses and phone networks, fires, and impassable roads. Relief and rehabilitation will take years, as more than 30,000 lives will be taken should it happen.

The 2004 MMEIR study emphasises the following:

  • The Marikina Valley fault is the biggest threat
  • 34,000 will be killed, 114,000 will be injured and 40% of buildings will be damaged
  • Schools, hospitals and fire stations will bear the brunt of the damage
  • Major risk points will be Navotas bay, Manila North Point, south eastern Manila, central Manila bay, western Marikina, eastern Pasig City, north eastern Quezon City, Muntinlupa-Laguna bay and Mandaluyong-Makati

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) with help from the Australian government has recently launched an up-to-date multi-hazard and risk maps for the Greater Metro Manila area that will help local government units improve their local disaster risk reduction management (LDRRM) plans. The risk assessment maps will soon be available for public viewing through the GeoPortal website.

To address the issue of structural resiliency, the government has also set to implement a program in 2014 that aims to improve old buildings, especially hospitals and schools, to make them withstand earthquakes. The Department of Public Works and highways has started selecting the first 200 structures to benefit from the program that would cost around Php5 billion.

The Manila Metropolitan Development Authority MMDA has launched Oplan Metro Yakal, identifying key evacuation sites and burial sites within Metro Manila. MMDA and the Philippine Medical Association are also set to work together to prepare volunteers should an earthquake strike the metro.

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