Manila Mayor Joseph has declared that the capital city and its 1.7 million residents are “80 percent” ready for the feared “Big One”, a 7.2 magnitude or stronger earthquake, that experts believe would happen anytime soon.
“For three and a half years, since I was elected as mayor, we have intensified our disaster-preparedness program dahil hindi natin alam kung kailan tayo matatamaan. We could say that 70-80 percent of Manila’s population is ready when that Big One comes,” Estrada said after the magnitude 5.0 quake that rocked General Nakar in Quezon and was felt in the National Capital Region, including Manila, on November 10.
Compared to three years before, Estrada pointed out that the city’s rescue and emergency units are now fully quipped and trained “as we have invested heavily in equipment, machines and vehicles for immediate use when a disaster strikes.”
Disaster readiness and resiliency is one of Estrada’s priority programs. He has poured in over P600 million for continuous disaster risk reduction and response capability building at the grassroots level.
Citing the Typhoons Ondoy and Yolanda that hit the country in 2009 and 2013, respectively, Estrada said every local government should be prepared for the “Big One”.
“We should not be caught off guard by super typhoons and other calamities such as earthquakes. We ought to be prepared to avert the loss of lives...millions of lives,” Estrada said.
The Manila Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) reported that it has formed community response teams in every barangay composed of 2,000 volunteers.
“Every barangay has a response team. At ’yung may mga areas na may request, mga schools, mga hospitals ’yun ’yung mga tinuturuan namin ngayon para mas dumami ang volunteers and at the same time, they will know what to do kung may sakuna,” Johnny Yu, officer-in-charge of MDRRMO, explained.
In case of the expected “Big One”, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) had said that most parts of Manila will either be destroyed by huge fires or swept away by hundred-meter tall tsunamis, causing horrific number of deaths and massive destruction.
Based on the 2004 Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS) made by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), the MMDA and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), there will be 35,000 deaths in Metro Manila in the first hour alone, over 100,000 injured and at least 500 instantaneous fires, most of which are in Manila.
The study grimly details the seemingly end-of-the-world situation when a powerful quake hits the NCR as a result of the sudden movement of the West Valley Fault.
Because Manila is an old city, with hundreds of dilapidated, wooden structures and large parts of which are below sea level, the MMDA pointed out that the city is “most vulnerable” to inferno-like fires as well as flooding and tsunami from the Manila Bay.
Based on the study’s Urban Vulnerability against Earthquake Damage, the Manila North Port Area, South-Eastern Manila and Central Manila Bay Area are the “most vulnerable to flammability” and the evacuation would be “very difficult.”
In this scenario, 170,000 residential houses will collapse, fires will burn approximately 1,710 hectares of land and properties, and 18,000 additional persons will be killed by the secondary disaster, the study added.