Two buildings
THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - April 29, 2019 - 12:00am

It seems heads will definitely roll for the collapsed Chuzon Supermarket in Porac, Pampanga, during the Castillejos, Zambales, earthquake last week. Video has surfaced showing the collapse of the supermarket, just seconds after the earthquake struck. The four-story building was initially designed for two floors, and is only four years old. The owner of the supermarket has also surfaced and claims no irregularities during the construction of the building.

The PNP is now preparing cases not only against the owner, but local officials who may have issued permits without checking designs, and even the contractor who may have used substandard materials during construction. Retailers of substandard materials, especially in the provinces, must also be made accountable. Materials that do not meet the standards set by concerned agencies, may be openly sold particularly in the provinces. Sadly, the search for survivors has ended after rescuers could no longer find proof of life.

On UN Avenue, the Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) building tilted and leaned against the adjacent building. At first, liquefaction was offered to explain why the building simply leaned and did not collapse. Liquefaction occurs when waterlogged soil loosens during an earthquake. But Phivolcs chief Renato Solidum does not believe liquefaction took place.

There are no cracked roads and water did not surface, which are the telltale signs of liquefaction. Liquefaction also occurs over a wide area, like what happened in Dagupan during the 1990 earthquake. No other buildings apparently experienced the same fate as that of the EAC building.

It might be necessary to look at the building's "footprint," if it was deep enough. Buildings must be able to withstand earthquakes up to a certain magnitude, swaying back and forth but returning to its original position.

Obviously this did not happen with the EAC building. Investigators must look at the owners and contractor of the building, if they wanted to save or make more money, respectively. As for what to do with the “Leaning Building of Ermita,” there are calls for its demolition. Aside from safety issues concerning the building’s occupancy, who wants to enter a leaning building? The stress on the adjacent building may be too much, making it a safety hazard as well.

Buildings in Metro Manila constructed before modern counter-earthquake measures should be inspected if they are still structurally sound. There is no such thing as an earthquake-proof building, but buildings should be earthquake-resistant up to a certain magnitude.

Last week’s earthquake caused modern buildings to sway for about a minute, but we did not see any of them collapsing. The Chuzon Supermarket and EAC building may be reminders that cutting corners for savings or profit may someday backfire, with grave consequences. As always, there are innocents who pay dearly for these infractions.

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