Wall of rock reveals new quake fault
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - October 24, 2013 - 1:00am

INABANGA, Bohol, Philippines – As the magnitude 7.2 earthquake ended on Oct. 15, residents of Sitio Kumayot in Barangay Anonang heard an explosive sound like a thunderclap.

Villagers watched in horrified disbelief as the ground cracked open and, with smoke and the stench of sulphur spreading, one side started to rise.

The emerging wall of rock and earth missed by a hairline the toilet of baker Menecia Bautista Aparecio, 43.

“We will be living forever in fear, being so close to the fault line,” said Aparecio, who fears returning to her home and now bakes her “pan Bisaya” or “pan kinamot,” a local bread, in the village chapel.

The rock face, about three meters high and two kilometers long, raised fears among villagers that more cracks would appear on the ground and swallow them up.

Scientists, who may declare a 300-meter permanent danger zone around the fault, described the appearance of the ground rupture as a “eureka” moment in their search for what they have long suspected was an active earthquake fault in the area.

Government scientists said the appearance of the yet unnamed fault, which does not exist on the country’s map of fault lines, triggered the powerful earthquake in Central Visayas.

“We are 100 percent sure that this is the generator (of the earthquake),” Teresito Bacolcol told GMA 7 as he noted that the rock face appeared near the quake’s epicenter at the boundary of Sagbayan and Catigbian towns. “When we saw (the fault), eureka! This is it.”

Bacolcol led a team from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), which inspected the rock face last Monday.

“We recommend that no structures should be built on top of a fault and within the five-meter buffer zone on both sides of the fault,” Phivolcs director Renato Solidum told The STAR.

He also urged the local government of Bohol to revise its land use policy around the fault.

Former barangay captain Mamerto Bautista Torregosa, 53, whose family owns land near the fault line, believes it will take years before a stronger earthquake hits the area.

He and his relatives have returned to their home, which lies just seven meters away from the fault line.

With aftershocks continuing to rock Bohol, village chief Felix Mellama Camay cannot advise residents to return home.

Emily Pisol, 24, a single parent of a four-month-old infant, saw the rock face rise and thought at first that it was an optical illusion. She said she felt her knees weaken, and she now worries about finding a new home. Her account was documented by an eight-member team of government scientists yesterday.

Alfredo Mahar Lagmay, executive director of the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH), said they would issue an assessment report on the area by tomorrow.

His team deployed an unmanned aerial vehicle for two hours yesterday. The drone flew over Sitio Kumayot, particularly over the earthen wall and along a five-kilometer stretch of cracked earth where sweet potatoes, corn and rice were cultivated by the Torregosa family.

The drone took 92 photos of the fault line, which split the area from Inabanga to Sagbayan.

The rock face is starting to draw curious visitors, and villagers hope it can turn their area into a tourist destination.

Sitio Kumayot is around four kilometers away from the national highway of Inabanga town. Motorcycles can be hired at P100 per person to reach the village.

Earlier, Solidum said the movement of an offshore fault north of Bohol triggered the Oct. 15 earthquake that killed nearly 200 people.

Solidum said the presence of the fault, which was defined as a hidden or blind fault, was postulated in 2007.

He said the fault also triggered a magnitude 5.6 quake in Bohol in 1996 that damaged property.

Solidum said the fault is unlikely to generate an earthquake stronger than the magnitude 7.2 temblor in the near future.

“The fault will not be moving and generate larger earthquakes. It needs to store up more energy, which could take hundreds of years,” Solidum said. - Maria Eleanor Valeros of Freeman, Helen Flores


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