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Anticipation and Preparedness: Metro Manila and the Looming Threat of the “Big One”

Last Update: Nov 15, 2023 @ 6:27 am

In the wake of the devastating earthquake that struck Morocco, claiming over 2,000 lives and leaving a trail of destruction, attention is being redirected towards a looming threat that has been overshadowed but never truly vanished – the impending seismic event, notoriously dubbed as the “Big One,” anticipated to shake the grounds of Metro Manila and surrounding regions in the Philippines. As seismologists issue renewed warnings, a revisiting of the comprehensive Earthquake Impact Reduction Study for Metro Manila, facilitated by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in collaboration with the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology between 2002 and 2004, paints a grim picture that demands immediate attention and action.

The Forecasts: A Dire Outlook

The meticulously conducted study by JICA delineated the imminent dangers associated with the activation of the West Valley Fault, which, according to scientific data, is due for a significant seismic activity that could reach up to a magnitude of 7.2. The potential repercussions are heart-wrenching, with projections estimating up to 34,000 casualties, predominantly within the Metro Manila area. This densely populated region stands to witness the most substantial loss, with collapsed infrastructures and ensuing fires exacerbating the chaos.

Moreover, the destructive ripple effect of such an event projects severe disruptions in the supply chains of essential commodities, including food and medicine, paralyzing the community and cutting off lifelines that are crucial during recovery phases.

Mitigation and Preparedness: Where Do We Stand?

Despite the availability of maps pinpointing the most vulnerable zones along the West Valley Fault, a large faction seems to have turned a blind eye, with property owners and developers disregarding the data in the pursuit of their interests. The silver lining, albeit thin, comes in the form of some contemporary buildings being equipped with earthquake-resistant features, thanks to the foresight of a few prudent contractors.

While the nation has not been entirely lackadaisical, incorporating regular earthquake drills in populated urban centers, experts argue that the existing measures are far from sufficient. There’s a pressing need to bolster preparedness, particularly regarding fire management, given that powerful earthquakes often give rise to rampant fires, further escalating the crisis.

A Call to Arms: Strengthening the Bastions

In light of the recent catastrophe that has gripped Morocco, the urgency for enhanced preparedness in Metro Manila has never been more pronounced. As we navigate the realm of possibilities that nature can unleash, there exists a collective responsibility to forge robust systems capable of withstanding the fiercest of nature’s trials.

The current demand is for a cooperative endeavor involving government agencies, private sector stakeholders, and the wider population. Building a resilient community involves meticulous planning and proactive measures to mitigate potential damages, safeguarding public utility networks, and ensuring the agile restoration of essential services post-disaster.

As the Philippine seismologists reiterate their warnings, the message is clear: the time for action is now. Building upon the insights derived from meticulous studies and learning from global occurrences, the focus should be on fostering a society fortified with the knowledge and infrastructure necessary to stand tall against the looming threat of the “Big One.” It is in unity and preparedness that we find our strongest defense, embracing the call to arms with resolve and foresight, steering towards a future where safety and resilience are not mere aspirations but tangible realities.

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