MANILA, Philippines - The government will hold simultaneous earthquake drills all over the country today to assess the Philippines’ preparedness to respond to a 7.2-magnitude quake, similar to one that hit the island province of Bohol in October 2013.
“In all these scenarios that would be based on a simulated 7.2-magnitude quake, we are going to test the evacuation of people and how they will react to these scenarios, as well as the responses of our responders,” National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) spokeswoman Mina Aragon said.
Another scenario that will be featured in today’s disaster exercises – the ceremonial venue for which is Roxas Boulevard in Manila – is the tsunami drill, a natural calamity that usually comes after a strong quake with an offshore epicenter.
Today’s drill at Roxas Boulevard, which will attended by top disaster officials led by Defense Secretary and NDRRMC chairman Voltaire Gazmin and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, will also feature projected disaster situations in the entire National Capital Region in the event of the sudden movement of the Manila Trench and the West Valley Fault.
Aragon said since a strong quake could trigger a fire, firefighters and volunteer rescue groups will also conduct simultaneous fire emergency drills as well as the evacuation of people trapped in high-rise establishments. The drill will also test the readiness of private and government hospitals to receive and treat victims of quake and fire victims.
She said the objective of the drill is to prepare and make people aware on what they will do in case major calamities like earthquakes and tsunamis happen.
“What is important here is that, when you are in Manila and the earth started shaking very strongly, you must always anticipate that a tsumani will come next,” Aragon said.
She said people should start evacuating inland, perhaps toward higher areas like Quezon City, because Manila is flat with no elevated land while high-rise buildings could have been damaged by the quake.
A movement in the West Valley Fault has been projected to generate what state seismologists call “The Big One,” a highly destructive earthquake in Metro Manila at least seven in magnitude.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said Metro Manila and nearby provinces may be isolated due to collapsed roads and buildings if a 7.2-magnitude earthquake hits the capital.
The quake could cause a tsunami as high as 18 feet that could damage over 100,000 residential buildings, it said.
The Philippines sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, where about 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes and 81 percent of the world’s largest earthquakes happen.
Aragon said all these disaster scenarios were offshoots of a joint study conducted by experts from concerned government agencies.
The Manila Police District (MPD) will reroute traffic today for its first citywide multi-disaster drill, even as it warned motorists and commuters to brace for heavy traffic.
The drill will be held along Roxas Boulevard from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The north and southbound lanes of the boulevard, from T.M. Kalaw street to Quirino Avenue, will be closed to traffic and motorists are advised to take alternate routes.
‘Take drills seriously’
Phivolcs urged yesterday the public, particularly the students, to take earthquake drills seriously so they would know what to do when a strong tremor happens.
Phivolcs director Renato Solidum said students should also share what they learn in the drills to their families.
He also suggested to the Department of Education (DepEd) to require students to submit a project wherein they will create a family preparedness and evacuation plan when a major quake strikes.
DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro, in his memorandum order dated June 25, instructed all public and private elementary and high schools in the country to participate in the drills. – With Alexis Romero, Helen Flores, Aie Balagtas See