Earthquake alert from your Kuya Eddie

Eddie Ilarde - The Philippine Star

(Editor’s Note: Former senator Eddie Ilarde, Kuya Eddie of radio-TV fame, is one of the most vocal advocates for typhoon and earthquake preparedness, due perhaps to his being born and raised in the “typhoon belt of the Philippines,” the Bicol region. During his stint in congress he filed a bill to construct evacuation centers in the coastal towns of the country which did not merit a second look. The following article underscores the need for government to seriously consider his proposal, which is timely due to frequent strong temblors in the world today, the latest being in Japan. Kuya Eddie’s fear that this country might be next deserves attention. — RFL)

MANILA, Philippines - Further to what we have written in January, 2010 (Organize Earthquake Rescue Team Now, The Philippine Star) regarding the need to set up an Earthquake Rescue Division by the government in anticipation of a possible killer earthquake in this country, we update that seemingly ignored proposition, timely as it is after the tragic earthquake and tsunami last March 11 in Japan.

Natural calamities are the true “equalizer” among peoples and nations of different economic and social status. When tragedy strikes rich and poor alike equally sustain and endure human pain and suffering as if to paraphrase the Biblical admonition that “the rains fall on both the wicked and the just.” So do havoc and destruction by natural calamities. But in the midst of the frightening Sendai quake-tsunami catastrophe (Tohoku Chiho Taiheiyo-oki Jishin), however, we saw a disciplined people — calm and composed — the result of periodic disaster training and drills in that country, Japan having almost 2,000 earthquakes a year. This country can learn from that experience.

Countries in this region including the Philippines which is part of the 40,000 kilometer long zone called the “circum-Pacific seismic belt” known as the Pacific Ring of Fire have tectonic and geologic fault lines, the longest of which is located under the archipelagic whole of the Philippines. We are forewarned and so must be forearmed. It is wrong for anybody, more so the government, to say with a straight face that we are prepared when in fact we are not. One does not have to be a scientist or doctor this or doctor that, to know simple steps to take to avoid or lessen chances of injury when an earthquake or typhoon or tsunami comes. Government agencies tasked to set up guidelines must teach and give incentives and the people will follow.

We strongly suggest to Pres. Noy to immediately set up through the proper agencies an “Earthquake-Tsunami Rescue Division” starting with the Metro Manila area and environs, especially coastal areas, in coordination with the Local Government Units. These rescue teams should be composed of trained paramedics, military and police units, doctors and nurses volunteers, and other non-government rescue organizations. The agencies concerned headed by a collegeal team appointed by the president should immediately make arrangements for the services, equipment, facilities, and real properties of hospitals, school buildings and playgrounds, and all open spaces as necessary components for search and rescue efforts the moment such calamities happen. Open areas can meet the need for spaces where “tent cities” can be put up for the injured turned away by crowded hospitals and for displaced people whose homes have been destroyed. During emergencies government can, by law temporarily sequester private properties and compel people to do community services desperately needed.

Even now, a “food-medicine-water bank” should be set up and stacked. The heavy equipment of construction firms shall be used in extracting people trapped under rubbles of collapsed buildings and residential homes. And just as important, the team must be ready with hundreds of body bags, tents and a lot of disinfectant. The possibility of the spread of disease is not remote. This is a horrifying scenario to contemplate but a real one we cannot afford to ignore.

The above are portents we face. Before the Big One happens we must be really prepared. Si vis pacem, para bellum. If you want peace, prepare for war.











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