EDITORIAL - Earthquake drill
(The Philippine Star) - April 21, 2016 - 10:00am

Schools and disaster mitigation authorities held simultaneous drills yesterday in preparation for an earthquake. The drills were conducted in the wake of the powerful quake that has left hundreds dead and over a thousand still missing in Ecuador.

Deadly earthquakes have also struck in the past weeks in Japan and Indonesia, raising fears that the Philippines, which lies along the Pacific Ring of Fire, is also ripe for a powerful temblor.

Government volcanologists have long warned that the country should prepare for the so-called Big One, which is expected along an earthquake fault that runs through Metro Manila from Marikina to parts of Laguna and Cavite. A map of the fault line is available, with volcanologists warning that the Big One can unleash horrendous death and destruction not only on surrounding areas but also on communities many kilometers away.

Earthquake drills prepare school children, teachers, office workers and rescue teams for what must be done in a regular quake. Studies have shown, however, that even Metro Manila is ill prepared for a quake on the scale that hit Japan in 2011. The magnitude 9 quake triggered an apocalyptic tsunami in Japan and a meltdown in a nuclear reactor, wiping away entire communities.

Even without a tsunami, studies have warned that Metro Manila and areas around the earthquake fault are not equipped to handle the collapse of many buildings and infrastructure, fires, and disruptions of basic services such as water, electricity and telecommunications in case the Big One strikes.

No country can fully cope with a disaster of the magnitude that hit Japan in 2011, but mitigation measures can reduce the scale of devastation. Sufficient warnings have been given; the government cannot wait for a change of administration to improve preparedness for a powerful earthquake.

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