Ready for the big one?

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The death toll continues to increase in earthquake-stricken Nepal, with the figure expected to rise beyond the 3,700 confirmed deaths as of yesterday afternoon as more bodies are pulled from the rubble. On the slopes leading to the peak of Mt. Everest, rescuers extracted climbers trapped in an avalanche triggered by the powerful 7.9 magnitude quake that shook the Himalayan region last Saturday.

Filipinos joined the mourning for the victims, even as the earthquake revived concerns about a similar catastrophe hitting the country. Lying along the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines is no stranger to killer earthquakes. Over 1,600 people died when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Luzon on July 16, 1990. The quake created a ground rupture 125 kilometers long from Aurora to Nueva Ecija, caused liquefaction that swallowed houses and commercial establishments, and triggered landslides that cut off Baguio City where the Hyatt Terraces Hotel crumpled, leaving at least 80 people dead. In Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, which was near the epicenter, over 150 people, many of them students, were crushed when a school building collapsed.

Philippine history is replete with stories of earthquakes destroying churches and communities across the archipelago. On Oct. 15, 2013, churches were among the most heavily damaged when a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck Bohol, Cebu and neighboring areas. Over 220 people died in the disaster.

The earthquake that hit Nepal should remind Filipinos of the urgency of disaster preparedness in a land that is one of the most prone to natural calamities. Studies in recent years have shown that even Metro Manila is not sufficiently prepared for a powerful earthquake. Seismologists have warned of the risks of a big one triggered by the movement of the Marikina Valley Fault Line that runs through Metro Manila from east to west, from San Mateo, Rizal all the way to Calamba, Laguna. Disaster analysts have warned that Metro Manila is not sufficiently equipped to deal with resulting fires, disruption of public utility services, supply cutoffs, and even the rescue of people trapped under piles of rubble.

Warnings have been aired and the vulnerable areas identified on maps of the fault line. With powerful earthquakes rocking other countries, it is never too early to ramp up preparedness for emergency relief and disaster mitigation. —- The Philippine Star

NO HOLDS BARRED

BAB in the Srinagar Times

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