The sanctuary concept again
OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - November 7, 2019 - 12:00am

We are told that in the Second World War residents of London hid in their underground bunkers when German V-1 and later V-2, rockets rained. Many Londoner lives were thus spared from dreadful deaths. At the height of the Cold War, there too, were bomb shelters reportedly built in strategically located American cities. Thank God, they had no occasion to use any. Shortly before, during and immediately after super typhoon Yolanda hit many Visayan areas almost exactly six years ago today, we did not have the kind of London bunkers nor the American shelters for our people to seek refuge in. And finding no sanctuary of any kind and form, thousands of lives perished.

The sight of the terrifying damage to life and property wrought by the earthquakes that recently hit many parts of Mindanao is unbelievably horrific. After all, the number of tremors coming in succession close to one another has no parallel in recorded history. No thanks to the undulation of mother earth, many private homes are destroyed beyond repair. A few of them are buried under tons of earth that slid from higher elevations. Even the integrity of concrete edifices presumably built to engineering standards is so compromised that such structures have become unworthy of habitation. More touching though are the scenes of people, seen on television screens to be staying mostly in open spaces  beneath makeshift and fragile shelters. If only they had the London kind of bunkers or the American type of shelters! If only.

From the cataclysmic devastation of such towns as Makilala and Tuluan, we are learning a very hard and painful lesson worsened by the fact that while typhoons can be tracked, forecast and prepared for there is yet no scientific way of predicting the occurrence of earthquakes like what happened in Cotabato and Davao provinces. As we witness, the Mindanaoan victims of the unprecedented series of tremors  are trying to make do out of the chaos and disorder. That sadly is what they can do after the fact and are doing against all odds.

The original concept of the London underground bunkers had glorious historical past of saving human lives. Cebu  City is in the position to retrieve such glory and give it modern application as a sanctuary. Same idea of protecting the citizenry. Apropos that context, the damage German V-2 rockets inflicted in England can be equated to the destructive power of super typhoon Yolanda. In recognition of such parallelism, our leaders have to erect shelters to protect its people from such ferocious climactic upheavals.

To approximate the objective of a sanctuary, the structure must be erected in such a strategic place as to be easily accessible  to those perceived to be needing refuge. Realistically speaking, there are sectors in our society who prefer to manage their own affairs during a state of calamity and so the sanctuary is not for them. Further, the building must not just be an empty space. To be truly functional, it shall house elements of all known frontline emergency responders like medical and other health professionals, fire and police personnel and social workers. Logistics to sustain the needs of an estimated number of evacuees for a projected period of time shall be kept within its walls.

 The idea of a sanctuary is not new, to confess. I have, in fact, written about it here in this column a number of times in the past and in more abundant details. I must insist though that the climactic tragedies that tore thru the lives of many countrymen drove this point home. We need to build sanctuaries now. The time has come for our leaders to put substance to this thought that we may be better able to address the kind of misfortune that befell upon the victims of the recent earthquakes.

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