EARTHQUAKES, TSUNAMIS AND DISASTERS IN THE PHILIPPINES

DISASTERS IN THE PHILIPPINES

Situated in the heart of the typhoon belt, the Philippines is usually affected by 15 and struck by five to six cyclonic storms each year. The country is also regularly deals with landslides that can kill hundreds of people; active volcanoes; destructive earthquakes; and tsunamis.

Carlos H. Conde wrote in the International Herald Tribune, “When Mayon, the volcano that looms over this town, spewed lava and volcanic debris earlier this year, Pio Nebres and other residents of nearby villages paid it little mind. Why should they flee, he said, when they had survived more cataclysmic events in the past? “We are used to them,” Nebres, 48, said of Mayon’s eruptions. But on Nov. 30, in a disaster of a type almost wholly peculiar to the Philippines, Typhoon Durian loosened the volcanic debris and rocks that had accumulated around the volcano. Dozens of villages were buried and at least 613 people were killed. More than 700 are still missing. “The topography of the Philippines is bad news from a natural point of view,” said Neil Britton, a disaster management expert at the Asian Development Bank in Manila. “Floods, earthquakes, landslides, droughts” you’ve got the whole sway here.” The country’s people are widely dispersed. “So whenever a disaster occurs in the Philippines, it will hit something,” Britton said. [Source: Carlos H. Conde, International Herald Tribune, December 12, 2006 */*]

“The Philippines is one of the most typhoon-prone countries in the world, with more than 20 battering it on average each year. Typhoons killed nearly 3,000 people between 2001 and 2005, according to official figures; more than 900 people have never been accounted for. Property damage from the storms totaled about $500 million” a truly vast sum here. The country also lies on the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire,” where geologists say 80 percent of the world’s earthquakes occur. Twenty-one of the country’s 220 volcanoes are active. Several of them, like Mayon, loom over human settlements. */*

“The recent Mayon landslides were not the first time typhoons had combined with volcanoes to bring misery to the Philippines. The spectacular eruption of the Pinatubo volcano in 1991, which was one of the largest in the last century, initially caused few casualties, thanks to the timely evacuation of almost everyone living within 30 kilometers, or about 20 miles, of the volcano. But on June 15, when the eruption reached its climax, Typhoon Yunya swept in from the Pacific, washing millions of tons of tephra—airborne ash—out of the sky. Of the 300 people killed, most died when their roofs collapsed under the weight of the deposits, which fell like snow but congealed into something like concrete. Communities near Pinatubo are still suffering. Each year, heavy rains cause new flows of volcanic debris in the surrounding valleys, ruining cropland and displacing villages. */*

Disaster Management and the Impact of Disaster on Ordinary Filipinos

Carlos H. Conde wrote in the International Herald Tribune, “International disaster relief experts credit the Philippines—still a largely impoverished country, with few discretionary resources—with major improvements in disaster mitigation since the Pinatubo eruption. But its disaster-response infrastructure remains rickety, and the government has yet to perfect a means of alerting the rural population quickly and in a way that villagers can understand. “Part of the problem is that government is relief-oriented, so that it reacts only after a disaster,” said Jun Lucero of the Manila-based Citizens’ Disaster Response Center, a nonprofit group. [Source: Carlos H. Conde, International Herald Tribune, December 12, 2006 */*]

“In July 2001, the government evacuated nearly 50,000 residents around Mayon just before a major eruption. Despite devastating volcanic flows racing down the mountainside, the death toll was kept to zero. In 2006, when lava and ash began spilling over the rim of Mayon’s cone, the government issued warnings to nearby villages and implemented evacuation plans. When the minor eruptions tapered off during the summer, however, the risk of landslides was apparently underestimated. Nebres, whose home and farm were buried, says that his village was never warned of the possibility.Officials insist that they had informed villagers near Mayon of a variety of risks, including the threat of landslides. But Nebres said that even if this were true, his family could not have picked up and left without help. “Where would we go?” he asked. */*

On how rural Filipino farmers cope with natural disasters, Marjorie Pajaron of Stanford University said: “Farmers are the poorest of the poor in the Philippines, and since the country is in the Pacific Ring of Fire it is frequently hit by natural disasters, including earthquakes, typhoons, and drought. Filipino farmers are very vulnerable because most cannot afford to install irrigation. Instead, they have to depend on rain and their crops are continually susceptible to changes in the weather. There is limited government assistance available to them, and they do not have any formal insurance. In addition, they cannot take out loans because they do not have the collateral. So, I have been looking at how they survive after a natural disaster. The only possible explanation is that they depend on their networks of family and friends. [Source: Marjorie Pajaron, the current Asia Health Policy Postdoctoral Fellow in Developing Asia, at Stanford; Sarah L. Bhatia, Shorenstein APARC, FSI Stanford, April 15, 2013 <^>]

Earthquakes in the Philippines

The Philippines is struck by large earthquake with some regularity. An earthquake in 2003 on Samar Island that measured 6.6 on the Richter scale killed a child and triggered landlsides that blocked some roads. An 6.8-magnitude earthquake in March 2002 on Mindanao killed five people. On July 16, 1990 an earthquake on Luzon that measured 7.7 on the Richter scale left 2,500 dead or missing and injured 3,400. On August 16, 1976, an earthquake followed by a tsunami swamped the islands of Mindanao, Sulu, Basilan and Tawi. More than 8,000 people were killed and 150,000 were made homeless. There is a good change that a catastrophic earthquake will occur in Manila in the not too distant future.

Ten deadliest recorded earthquakes in the Philippines since the 1600s (Magnitude, Location, Date, Mortality, Missing, Injured): 1)7.9, Moro Gulf, August 16, 1976, 4791, 2288, 9928; 2) 7.8, Luzon Island, July 16, 1990, 1666, 1000, More than 3000; 3) 7.5, Luzon Island, November 30, 1645, More than 600, More than 3000; 4) 7.3, Casiguran, Aurora, August 2, 1968, 271, 261; 5) 7.2, Bohol & Cebu, October 15, 2013, 222, 8, 796; 6) 7.1, Mindoro, November 15, 1994, 78, 430, ?; 7) 6.7, Negros Oriental, February 6, 2012, 51, 62, 112; 8) 8.3, Panay (Lady Caycay), January 25, 1948, 50 (est); 9) Unknown, Manila, June 19, 1665, 19, Unknown; 10) 6.5, Laoag, August 17, 1983, 16, 47. [Source: Wikipedia]

Moro Gulf Earthquake and Tsunami of August 1976

Dr. George Pararas-Carayannis wrote on his Tsunami Page: On August 16, 1976, a devastating earthquake on the Cotabato Trench caused destruction on the island of Mindanao - the southernmost and largest of the Phillipine Islands. The destructive tsunami that was generated in the Gulf of Moro and in the Celebes Sea killed about 8,000 people in coastal communities in North and South Zamboanga, North and South Lanao, North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat (Mindanao), and in the neighboring Sulu Islands. This was the worst earthquake and tsunami disaster in the history of the Philippines. Ninety percent of all deaths were the result of the tsunami. [Source:George Pararas-Carayannis, The Tsunami Page of Dr. George P. C. <=>]

The earthquake occurred at 16:10 UTC of August 16, 1976 (local date August 17, 1976). The epicenter was in the Celebes Sea between the islands of Mindanao and Borneo. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center's preliminary magnitude was given as 8.0 on the Richter scale and as 7.9 by other sources. There were many aftershocks following the main earthquake. A major aftershock on August 17 (local date) had a magnitude of 6.8. It was proceeded by at least fifteen smaller aftershocks. <=>

The earthquake occurred at night when offices and schools in Cotabato, Zamboanga and other cities were unoccupied - thus the loss of life was reduced. Although the quake had a large magnitude, surprisingly, it produced little ground deformation on land areas. However, there was extensive earthquake damage to buildings, bridges and roads in Mindanao and particularly at the city of Cotabato. The majority of buildings failed because of poor construction or inadequate foundations. A number of such buildings had been constructed on alluvial deposits with no adequate pile support. Evidence of ground liquefaction was found in many areas where mud bubbles had reached the surface. <=>

The tectonics of the Celebes Sea-Sulu Sea region, between the Philippine Islands and the southern Philippine trench on the northeast and Borneo on the southwest, are complex. The region is characterized by deep basins and bold submarine ridges which have resulted from intensive, large-scale faulting of strike-slip, thrust, and block types accompanied by extensive volcanism (Krauss 1966). There are a total of 22 active volcanoes in the Phillipines. <=>

There are several fault zones in the region that are capable of producing major earthquakes and destructive local tsunamis. The two major fault zones that are more dangerous are the Sulu Trench in the Sulu Sea and the Cotabato Trench. The Cotabato Trench is a region of subduction that crosses the Celebes Sea and the Moro Gulf in Southern Mindanao. Deep-focus earthquakes occur along the NNE axis of the Celebes sea basin into the southern Philippines. Shallow-focus earthquakes occur between this axis and the southwestern side of the Philippine trench. The Moro Gulf earthquake of August 16, 1976 occurred near the Cotabato trench - a region of subduction. According to the PHIVOLCS historical catalog of earthquakes for the last 100 years, this region of the southern Phillipines is characterized by moderate to high seismicity. Most of the earthquakes that occur along the Cotabato trench are shallow, although very deep events also occur.<=>

Moro Gulf Tsunami of August 1976

Dr. George Pararas-Carayannis wrote on his Tsunami Page: Minutes after the earthquake, a destructive tsunami swept through coastal fishing villages and was responsible for great loss of life and damage. This was the most devastating tsunami disaster in recent times in the Phillipines. The first of the destructive tsunami waves reached some coastal areas in the Moro Gulf within five minutes after the earthquake. Hardest hit were the Moslem Communities in the Moro Gulf where a number of residences are either close to the coastline, or living in houses sitting on stilts in the water. Destructive waves of up to five meters in height struck North Cotabato, Sulu Islands, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat. About 8,000 people were killed. [Source:George Pararas-Carayannis, The Tsunami Page of Dr. George P. C. <=>]

According to information gleaned from a survey by Dr. George Pararas-Carayannis (then Director of ITIC) and Mr. Sydney Wigen (Associate Director of ITIC) it was determined that the maximum height of the tsunami waves in the entire Moro Gulf were in the order of 4.5 meters (14-15 feet), which was considerably less than what had been reported in the newspapers. Such large waves occurred at Alicia, Pagadian City, Bongo Island, Lebak, Resa Bay and the east coasts of Basilan and Jolo Islands. <=>

Pagadian City was the major city in the area that was struck by both the earthquake and the tsunami and sustained the greatest number of casualties. The islands along the Western Moro Gulf were struck by destructive tsunami waves that caused many deaths. On the island of Basilan, maximum waves of up to 4.3 meters (14 ft) killed 56 people. On the island of Jolo, similar waves were responsible for the death of 89, with 107 more reported as missing (at the time of the survey). <=>

Ninety percent of all the deaths were caused by the tsunami. Hardest hit were Moslem Communities where the most of the homes were close to the shoreline or built on piles in the sea. The great number of deaths in these communities is attributed to lack of awareness of the potential danger from earthquakes and tsunamis in the region. Although in some areas a 5 to 15 minute interval passed after the earthquake and before the arrival of the tsunami waves, the people in the area did not seek higher ground after the earthquake, but remained in their homes. <=>

Based on the distribution of wave heights, estimates of travel times and the directional failure of structures, it was concluded that the tsunami generating area was in the upper part of Moro Gulf, somewhat south of Baganian Peninsula and that the fault line was primarily underwater and had an orientation from southeast to northwest - paralleling the Cotabato Trench. This conclusion is supported by ground deformation and building failures at both Tabina and Cotabato City and reported earthquake intensities. <=>

1990 Luzon Earthquake

The devastating Luzon earthquake struck a densely populated region around Baguio city in the central area of island of Luzon on Monday, July 16, 1990, at 4:26 PM local time. The earthquake measured 7.8 on the Richter scale and produced a 125 kilometer-long ground rupture as a result of strike-slip movements along the Philippine Fault. The earthquake’s epicenter was east of the town of Rizal, Nueva Ecija, northeast of Cabanatuan City. An estimated 1,621 people were killed in the earthquake. Most of the fatalities located in Central Luzon and the Cordillera region. [Source: Wikipedia]

Reporting from Cabanatuan Rizal Province two days after the earthquake, Steven Erlanger wrote in the New York Times, “A young vendor in the market here has become something of a hero in the wake of the earthquake that devastated parts of the city. The vendor, Junjun Merosa, 19 years old, was among the first to arrive after the Christian College of the Philippines collapsed afternoon in this city north of Manila. Small and lithe, Mr. Merosa personally retrieved 12 living people and 25 bodies, he said, helping the living squeeze from the rubble by dousing them with motor oil and pulling them gently with ropes. Accounts like Mr. Merosa's have spread through the nation in the aftermath of the earthquake. [Source: Steven Erlanger, New York Times, July 19, 1990 ^^]

“An American rescue worker said the body of an official of the United States Agency for International Development was found in the ruins of the Nevada Hotel in Baguio, but had not yet recovered it, The Associated Press reported. Several members of the agency had been attending a conference at the hotel. Doctors said that any people trapped alive who could not be reached in the next day would almost surely die from shock, wounds and dehydration. Officials estimated that perhaps 1,000 people were missing, including some 150 workers who were trapped in the rubble of a Baguio chemical factory that then caught on fire. “ ^^

“Here in Cabanatuan, the last person rescued was pulled from the wrecked school about 9 P.M. on Tuesday by a Marine. The boy, Florencio Agapito, 14, was taken to a hospital, his legs and pelvis crushed. Lieutenant Barrett, 25, said his Marines arrived about the time the boy was saved and worked through the night, but ''all we saw were dead ones.'' From a ladder, five bodies deep in the wreckage were visible but inaccessible. The rescue workers, most of whom wore surgical masks, studiously avoided looking at them as they searched for any sign of the living. Between 30 and 50 people are believed to be still trapped in the building; 62 have been found dead and retrieved, and 134 were injured. ^^

“At the flattened Christian College of the Philippines in Cabanatuan, Col. Ramon Ong, whose soldiers were searching for survivors side by side with American Marines and Seabees engineers from Subic Bay Naval Station, said, ''Every hour that passes diminishes our hope.'' A Marine lieutenant, Michael Barrett, with a combat engineering group and one of 292 Americans helping in this city, said more bluntly, ''There's no realistic hope now of anyone still alive.'' Filipino officials here and in Baguio, the two towns hardest hit by the earthquake, said their efforts had to begin to turn to the needs of the living. Residents of Baguio are without drinking water, fresh food and electricity, and have been sleeping outside to avoid injury in a series of aftershocks.

The 125 kilometer-long ground rupture stretched from Dingalan, Aurora to Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija as a result of strike-slip movements along the Philippine Fault and the Digdig Fault within the Philippine Fault System.

1990 Luzon Earthquake in Baguio

According to the Baguio Midland Courier: “A killer earthquake unexpectedly hit and extensively devastated the City of Baguio. As reported, the powerful temblor measured 7.7 in the open-ended Richter scale and lasted for 45 seconds. It was said to be the most destructive earthquake on record within the Cordillera Region. There were numerous aftershocks that followed and the strongest, which occurred at 3:15 a.m. of July 18, lasted for eight seconds ... and measured 5.3 on the Richer scale. Fearing for their lives, many of Baguio's 120,000 people slept outdoors on Monday night. The city suffered the most in terms of destruction to properties and numerous deaths. Many commercial and government buildings, hotels, inns, and residences were heavily damaged. The death toll continued to rise as rescuers pulled more bodies from the rubbles. It was estimated that as many as 1,000 people were trapped and killed in damaged buildings. [Source: cityofpines.com, Baguio Midland Courier, July 22 & 29 and August 5, 1990 ~~]

“The five-star Hyatt Terraces Plaza sustained the worst damage when its terraced front collapsed onto the lobby area, killing about 50 people. The Baguio Park Hotel along Harrison Road was a total wreck. The luxurious Nevada Hotel which is located right across from the main gate of Camp John Hay was ripped in half by the quake, leaving a huge gash in the middle of the structure. The Saint Vincent Catholic Church along Naguilian Road was spared by the strong quake, however a portion of its retaining wall and parking area was damaged and collapsed to the road below. The church, which has withstood typhoons, bombings during the 2nd World War, and other disasters, suffered only minor damage. ~~

“At the University of Baguio (UB), it was initially reported that 23 people, mostly students, were killed when the supporting structure of the commerce building gave way. Nearby the FRB Building also crumbled to the ground. The FRB building and UB are both owned by Fernando Bautista, Sr. and his family. The Philippine Military Academy at Fort Del Pilar was also one of the worst hit portions in the city. The parade ground mushroomed into a tent city where cadets pitched tents after their barracks was destroyed. There were many other buildings and familiar landmarks of Baguio which were damaged and classified as hazards. These included the Skyworld Condominium and Commercial Center along Session Road, The Royal Inn at Magsaysay Avenue, and the controversial Baguio Hilltop Hotel which was constructed on a hill behind the Baguio Public Market. Because of the extensive devastation, Baguio City was described to be a virtual "war zone." Also, it was running low on water, fuel, food, and other miscellaneous basic necessities to include much-needed medicines for the injured and sick people.” ~~

Relief After the 1990 Luzon Earthquake

Steven Erlanger wrote in the New York Times, “Roads to Baguio, a mountain resort 110 miles north of Manila, were still impassable from landslides, making it difficult for equipment and supplies to get to the town. The airport, its runway buckled, is also shut to everything but helicopters. Hundreds of people remain trapped in the rubble, but without heavy cranes, which cannot be taken in by helicopter, rescue workers can do little except listen for the cries of those still able to cry in the enormous piles of twisted concrete and steel. At a Baguio hotel, the Hyatt Terraces, much of which collapsed, Clarita Gonzales used a megaphone to call to her daughter, 5 years old. ''Baby, Baby Michelle darling, Mama's here!'' she shouted, over and over. A hotel spokesman said 80 people were still missing, including 30 guests, 25 employees and perhaps 25 others who had been in the casino. [Source: Steven Erlanger, New York Times, July 19, 1990 ^^]

“President Corazon C. Aquino flew to Baguio today and asked students there, who make up at least a quarter of the population of 120,000, to try to return to their homes. People were leaving the city on foot while others waited at the airport to try to get rides on relief helicopters. The American Embassy in Manila said a 14-member military search and rescue team arrived today and would go by helicopter to Baguio. Rescue workers said one of their biggest difficulties was the lack of sensitive microphones and infrared scanners that can help identify those still alive. The Americans had brought in a tactical field hospital with 54 beds and an operating room and set it up nearby, but no one else was found alive.” ^^

According to the Baguio Midland Courier: “ Rescue crews and relief supplies began to trickle into Baguio as hope faded for hundreds of people believed trapped under collapsed buildings as a result of Monday's earthquake. Thousands of residents of the city huddled in tattered tents and makeshift shelters in parks and streets. Drenched by daily rains, many complained that they had no food, water or medicine. Doctors working under umbrellas and sheets of plastic had treated nearly 800 of the injured. The city's three hospitals were all damaged and without power. Aftershocks continued throughout the day. Without electric power, rescue work at the Hyatt Terraces and Nevada hotels stopped as daylight faded. Almost no rescue operations were evident at the 20 other hotels and at schools, office buildings and factories. [Source: cityofpines.com, Baguio Midland Courier, July 22 & 29 and August 5, 1990 ~~]

“The three main access roads to Baguio were blocked by landslides that hundreds of motorists were stuck along the highways. The roads were totally impassable to vehicular traffic. People desiring to leave the city had no other alternative but to hike down Kennon Road, Marcos Highway, or Naguilian Road. Different portions of Kennon Road were blocked by landslides. This condition also made the delivery of critically needed aid to the city impossible. Loakan airport had to be temporarily closed to commercial flights to allow food, supplies, equipment, and rescue personnel to be transported by air using military and some privately-owned aircraft. ~~

Earthquake in Bohol and Cebu Kills 222 in 2013

On October 15, 2013, an earthquake that measured 7.2 of the Richter scale struck Bohol and Cebu, killing 230, injuring 796 and causing about $4 billion in damage. The BBC reported: “The quake happened at 08:12 (00:12 GMT) on a national holiday. The US Geological Survey said it struck below the island of Bohol, where officials reported most casualties. People were also killed in the province of Cebu. Historic churches were among the many damaged buildings, and stampedes were reported in two cities. At least 69 of 93 initially confirmed dead were from Bohol, according to reports citing disaster management officials. Fifteen people are known to have been killed in Cebu, and another was reported dead on the neighbouring island of Siquijor. Dozens of others are also being treated for injuries. [Source: BBC, October 15, 2013 *^*]

“Search and rescue operations are being conducted, with rescuers finding themselves hampered by damaged roads. At least five people died when part of a fishing port collapsed in Cebu, and two others were also reported dead when a roof fell at a market. At least three people also died during a stampede at a sports complex in Cebu, provincial disaster chief Neil Sanchez said. "There was panic when the quake happened and there was a rush toward the exit," he told AFP. *^*

“The tremor triggered power cuts in parts of Bohol, Cebu and neighbouring areas, say reports citing the country's disaster management agency. Officials from Bohol and Cebu have declared a state of emergency in their respective provinces, local media say. An official from the government agency which monitors earthquake activity was quoted as saying that this was the strongest tremor felt in the area in the last 23 years. *^*

Kiko Rosario of Associated Press wrote: “Tuesday was a national holiday in the Philippines celebrating the Muslim feast of Eid ul Adha, which meant some of the most damaged structures, like schools and office buildings, were empty when the quake struck, which saved many lives. "That is our only consolation," said Bohol provincial health officer Reymoses Cabagnot. Gay Flores had just woken up in her two-story house in the town of Carmen when the quake struck, sending shock waves across the picturesque island —and knocking her off her feet. "I crawled down to our kitchen because my mother and nephews were there," she said. "Then we crawled out of the house." The roof of their house had caved in and the cement walls had collapsed, but she was alive, and so were her parents. "We left everything behind," Flores said by phone from the Bohol town of Carmen. "Belongings don't matter as long as we can save our lives." [Source: Kiko Rosario, Associated Press, October 16, 2013 /=/]

“A day after the quake, Gov. Chatto said that all towns in need had been reached, although landslides and damaged bridges were slowing down road travel. Only two of the island's 20 bridges were passable. "The towns that needed help have been reached. The most heavily hit in terms of casualties was the town of Loon, and there are still ongoing processes there, of recovery," he said. President Benigno Aquino III and senior Cabinet members came to offer their support Wednesday and distribute relief aid and inspect the damage firsthand. Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said that the bridges would be repaired within weeks. /=/

Reporting from Calape, Philippines, Kiko Rosario and Oliver Teves of Associated Press wrote: “Calape Mayor Sulpicio Yu said that almost 90 percent of the buildings in his town, with a population of 32,000, were partially or totally damaged. At least five people were killed in Calape. The hospital did not collapse, Guibao said, but there was no electricity and engineers had to check the building for damage before it was declared safe again. Altogether 11 hospitals across the region were damaged by the quake, two seriously. The Health Department said that doctors were waiting for helicopters or boats to transfer 60 patients needing surgery or critical care to Tagbilaran from Loon, the Bohol town near Calape that suffered the most damage with more than 40 dead. On Thursday, authorities said that rescuers and emergency supplies were getting through to towns that had been isolated by the quake and where residents were camped out in tents waiting for assistance and to start repairing homes. [Source: Kiko Rosario and Oliver Teves, Associated Press, October 17, 2013 +++]

Philippine Quake Damages Historic Churches

The earthquake that struck Bohol and Cebu in October 2013 dealt a serious blow to the region's historical and religious legacy by heavily damaging a dozen or more churches, some of them hundreds of years old. Kiko Rosario of Associated Press wrote: “As rescuers reached some of the hardest-hit areas and the death toll from the quake a day earlier continued to rise, images of the wrecked religious buildings resonated across a nation where 80 percent of the population is Roman Catholic. The bell tower toppled from Cebu city's 16th-century Basilica of the Holy Child — a remnant of the Spanish colonial era and the country's oldest church building — becoming a pile of rubble in the courtyard. Other churches on the neighboring island of Bohol, epicenter of the quake and a popular tourist destination known for its beaches, were also damaged, some beyond repair. [Source: Kiko Rosario, Associated Press, October 16, 2013 /=/]

"The heritage old churches are also very close to the hearts of the Boholanos," said Bohol Gov. Edgardo Chatto, using the term for residents of the island. He said authorities would attempt to restore the historic churches, but some may never return to their former state. "Every piece of the church should be left untouched so that restoration efforts can be easier," he said. "It may not be a total restoration, but closest to what it used to be before." Emilia Dalagan was sweeping grass outside her home near the 300-year-old church called Our Lady of the Assumption Shrine in Dauis on the resort island of Panglao, near Bohol, when the ground shook. "The funeral car was crushed by falling debris from the front of the church. The driver was able to get out," she said. The back, front and the right wing of the church were destroyed. The structure is said to be made from corals cemented together with egg white. /=/

“Amazingly, the town of Carmen, the quake epicenter, did not record any deaths. The hardest-hit areas were along Bohol's western coast. Senior Inspector Jacinto Mandal, the police chief in Loon, was sitting in his office drawing up a plan for the upcoming village election when the quake hit. "It was really strong. It was as if something was really moving underground," Mandal said. "We fell to the ground from the force of the shaking. If you attempt to stand, you would topple." Running outside, he saw cracks open in the street and people screaming and crying. He told them to gather outside the municipal hall. He found the mayor, who was shaken but alive, and they proceeded to the church, only to find it reduced to rubble. Two bodies were pulled out Wednesday. After reaching the collapsed church, he and the priest escorted the people to a more open area. "We still have no electricity," he said. "As of this time, the people use firewood to cook.”

Giving Birth in the Bohol-Cebu Earthquake of 2013

Reporting from Calape, Philippines, Kiko Rosario and Oliver Teves of Associated Press wrote: “Eileen Rose Carabana and her mother were in their mountain village house when the 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck the central Philippine island of Bohol. Moments later, she felt an unmistakable intense pain in her abdomen — she was about to go into labor. There was no other way to get to a doctor but to hike several kilometers down a mountain to the hospital in Calape, a coastal town devastated by the earthquake and destroyed thousands of homes and a dozen or more centuries-old churches. "I was worried for my baby because I could already feel tummy pain," the 19-year-old recalled Thursday. When she made it to the hospital, Carabana found patients had already been evacuated to a tent outside, where a humming generator provided light for emergency procedures. [Source: Kiko Rosario and Oliver Teves, Associated Press, October 17, 2013 +++]

“As she went into labor, Carabana said she felt the ground shaking from aftershocks. "I was very scared and I prayed that I would just have a normal delivery in spite of the tragedy," she said. She recalled the words of the hospital staff: "Just push and pray, push and pray." Later in the night, she gave birth to a healthy, 2.4-kilogram (5.3-pound) baby named James Lyndon. +++

“Carabana was one of five young mothers who have delivered in Calape since the quake hit Bohol Island. Another expectant mother whose house was destroyed had to walk down a mountain to seek help from her relative before finding a ride to the hospital in Calape, said Meneleo Guibao, a nurse who is also the administrator of the 12-bed municipal hospital in the town. On the way, along bumpy roads torn open by the quake, the woman's water burst, he said. The baby came out not breathing and had to be resuscitated, Guibao said. Both the mother and baby were sent to a larger hospital in the provincial capital Tagbilaran, which was better equipped for emergencies. There was no word about their condition. "Our theory is that she was trying to stop the baby from coming out because it was difficult traveling to the hospital," Guibao said.The three other mothers and their babies were all doing fine and two of them were about to be discharged, he said. +++

“Although not a stranger to disasters in a country that is often buffeted by typhoons, floods and shaken by volcanos and quakes, Guibao said that delivering babies in a tent amid aftershocks was a first for him. "I have experience in home delivery, but I have not delivered under this calamity situation," he said. Guibao said he worried about his patients, but was grateful for caregivers and volunteers who were aiding him and the rest of the staff. +++

Earthquake in Negros – Cebu in 2012 Kills Around 100

On February 6, 2012, a magnitude 6.7 occurred on Negros Oriental in a very highly populated region of Central Visayas in Philippines, killing 51, with 62 missing, and injuring 112. The nearest populated places were Ayungon (20 kilometers), Tayasan (12 kilometers), Cantaup (16 kilometers), Jimalalud (6 kilometers), La Libertad (7 kilometers), Apanangon (6 kilometers), Guihulngan (15 kilometers) , Villegas (15 kilometers). [Source: Armand Vervaeck and James Daniell, earthquake-report.com, March 29, 2012 /+/]

By one count 108 people were killed (42 people were found dead, and 66 missing). Of these, 94 were killed by landslides and rockslides. 7 were killed due to falling walls and debris, 3 were killed due to heart attacks, and 4 due to falling fences. The total damage has totalled to PhP363.5 million (8.6 million USD). Most of this damage occurred in Negros Oriental and Cebu. A total of 1154 houses have been completely destroyed as well as 1496 damaged in addition. That makes a total of around 2650 houses. Several roads, bridges, and other infrastructure were damaged in Cadiz, Cebu, Siquijor, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental. The cost of the bridges and roads affected totals around PhP 266 million (around 6.3 million USD). A total of 86127 people were affected with 22657 of these in evacuation centers. To date, the government had so far provided PhP14,025,093 (330000 USD) worth of relief assistance in terms of food and non-food items, medicines. /+/

The Telegraph reported: “The 6.8-magnitude quake hit in a narrow strait just off Negros Island. People rushed out of schools, malls and offices during the quake The epicentere was closest to Tayasan, a coastal town of about 32,000 people flanked by mountains in Negros Oriental province. A child there died when a concrete fence of a house collapsed, said Benito Ramos, head of the Office of Civil Defense. Tayasan police officer Alfred Vicente Silvosa said there were still aftershocks "so we are outside, at the town plaza. We cannot inspect buildings yet because it's dangerous." "I felt the building shaking, so I rushed out of the building. Our computers, shelves, plates, the cupboards, water dispenser all fell," he said. The US Geological Survey said the quake was centered 44 miles north of Dumaguete city on Negros and hit at a depth of 29 miles. The area is about 400 miles outheast of the capital, Manila.[Source: The Telegraph, February 6, 2012]

The BBC reported: “The quake hit 70 kilometers (45 miles) north of Dumaguete city on Negros island. The 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck at 11:49 (03:49 GMT) at a depth of 20 kilometers, according to the US Geological Survey. The death toll includes two children, according to the government's National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. Many people were killed in a landslide in the badly-hit coastal area of Guihulngan.[Source: BBC, February 7, 2012 <>]

“Telecommunications have been cut in many areas. A series of aftershocks followed the initial quake, one of them registered a magnitude of 6.2 at the epicentre. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology issued a tsunami alert for the area, but had lifted it by 14:30. Damaged roads and bridges added to challenges faced by rescue workers and the transport of aid and supplies. In the town of Guihulngan, about 90 kilometers north of Dumaguete, reports said some houses had been completely buried by landslides, and the market and court house were also damaged. The town's 42-strong police force, joined by army personnel and volunteers, had been searching for survivors and clearing debris, said Inspector Alvin Futalan, police chief of Guihulngan. "The army (troops) had to walk about 50 kilometers from the last stop reachable by vehicle to reach us," he told the Agence France Presse news agency. <>

“Nine bridges were damaged in Negros Oriental, with four no longer passable, said Governor Roel Degamo. The quake also caused a landslide in the mountain village of Solongon in La Libertad town, in the same province. "We're now getting shovels and chain saws to start a rescue because there were people trapped inside. Some of them were yelling for help earlier," La Libertad police chief inspector Eric Arrol Besario told the Associated Press. Army teams were carrying out search operations, said Ver Neil Balaba, operations officer at the regional Office of Civil Defence, and police had been deployed to prevent looting. "The most urgent needs now are water, tents and food," he said. <>

Philippines Tsunami in 1994 Kills 62

In November 1994, dozens of people were killed and injured when a powerful 7.1 earthquake at sea triggered powerful tsunamis the swept away villages on the southern coast of the island of Mindoro. Afterwards dead babies were found in trees and thorn bushes. Some people survived by hanging onto coconut palms until the water receded.

Dr. George Pararas-Carayannis wrote on his Tsunami Page: An earthquake with magnitude of 7.1- centered 11 kilometers kilometers N22̊W of Baco, Mindoro, near Verde Island - generated a local destructive tsunami. In oriental Mindoro, the combined effects of the earthquake and the tsunami killed a total of 78 people, injured 430, damaged or destroyed 7566 houses in 13 out of 15 municipalities, damaged roads, destroyed or damaged 24 bridges, and sunk numerous fishing boats. There was no time to issue a warning. Approximately five minutes after the tremor, tsunami waves struck along a 40 kilometers stretch of the northern and eastern shoreline of Mindoro island, from Puerto Galera up to Pinamalayan. Also affected were Verde and Baco Islands, north of Mindoro. Waves with a maximum runup of 8.5 meters occurred at Pulong Malaki (Baco Island). Minor waves were also reported at Batangas Bay. [Source: George Pararas-Carayannis, The Tsunami Page of Dr. George P. C. <=>]

“Areas hardest hit by the tsunami were in Barangays Malaylay, Old Baco, Wawa, and Baco Islands. Waves with maximum runup of 6 meters caused the greatest destruction, leaving at least 41 persons dead and destroying fishing boats and 1530 houses. Fortunately, being well prepared by the Philippine Civil Defense authorities, most of the inhabitants in the area reacted quickly to the earthquake's natural warnings. After being awakened from their sleep by the strong ground motions of the earthquake, they heard a strong jet like sound of water, first receding then coming back. Knowing that a tsunami was coming, they evacuated quickly to higher ground and were thus able to save themselves from the incoming waves. What also helped was the fact that the tide was at its lowest level at that time of the night. <=>

Unfortunately, most of the people that died in this area were children and old people that could not move fast enough to higher ground. Almost half of the casualties who drowned were children below 10 years old. The lesson learned was the importance of educational programs and preparedness, particularly for the young. Apparently, such programs are now in place in the Philippines where, in recent years, several tsunami disasters have killed thousands of people. Without such preparedness the death toll for this Mindoro tsunami would have been much greater. Nonetheless, this disaster also indicated the need for these educational programs to be continuous and intensive, particularly in areas known to be vulnerable to the tsunami disaster. <=>

Major Quake off Philippines in 2012 Causes Tsunami Panic but Minor Damage

In August 2012, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake struck off the Philippines, killing one person, damaging roads and bridges and sending people fleeing to higher ground in fear of a tsunami. Oliver Teves of Associated Press wrote: “Thousands of villagers who fled their coastal homes during a powerful earthquake in the central Philippines have returned home, but hundreds more still jittery from the temblor remained in evacuation centers. The magnitude-7.6 quake struck off the Philippines' eastern coast late Friday, killing one person in a house collapse, knocking out power in several towns and spurring panic about a tsunami that ended up generating only tiny waves. The quake hit at a depth of 34.9 kilometers (21.7 miles) and was centered 106 kilometers (66 miles) east of Samar Island, the U.S. Geological Survey said. No large tsunamis were generated by the quake and it caused only minor damage, including cracks on buildings and several bridges, Civil Defense chief Benito Ramos said. About 140 aftershocks have been recorded, including two with a magnitude of 6.4, said Renato Solidum, chief of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology. [Source: Oliver Teves, Associated Press, August 31, 2012 ^/^]

“Panicked residents in Samar's coastal towns headed for high ground and nearby hills, Ramos said. "Some rested under tall trees they planned to climb if tsunami waves reached them. That was instinct," he said. He said hundreds of "nervous" villages remained in evacuation centers in Eastern Samar province but were expected to return home later Saturday. A house collapsed in southern Cagayan de Oro city, on the main southern island of Mindanao, killing a 54-year-old woman and injuring her 5-year-old grandson, said the city's mayor, Vicente Emano. Neighbors said the woman ran out of the house as the ground shook. She immediately returned home after hearing her grandson's cries, but was unable to escape when her house collapsed. Solidum said the biggest wave that came ashore on Siargao Island, which is southeast of Samar, was less than half a meter (20 inches) high. ^/^

“The quake snapped some power lines in Tandag City in Surigao del Sur province on the eastern coast of Mindanao, where recent tsunami drills were held. More than 6,000 city residents immediately headed for the provincial capitol grounds on a hill, occupying the streets and sleeping on the pavement and grass, disaster officials said. Most trickled back home before dawn Saturday. "It was very strong. My house was making sounds," Bem Noel, a member of the Philippine House of Representatives, said in a telephone interview from Tacloban city on the eastern coast of Leyte island near Samar. "You talk to God with an earthquake that strong," he said. Tacloban resident Digna Marco said that the quake toppled a figurine on top of her TV set and that her son had to hold their desktop computer to prevent it from falling to the floor. The lights over her dining room were swinging, she said. "My neighbors and I have evacuated. We are now on our way to the mountains," fisherman Marlon Lagramado said before the tsunami warnings were lifted, in a telephone interview from the coastal town of Eastern Samar's Guiuan township.: ^/^

Reuters reported: “The quake was centered off the east coast, 91 miles off the town of Guiuan in Samar province at a depth of about 20 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning for much of the region, but cancelled it about two hours later. Philippine authorities maintained their tsunami warning for longer, after ordering residents to get out of coastal areas immediately. They cancelled it more than three hours after the quake. "Residents can now return to their homes. It's safe now, the danger of a tsunami has passed," the Philippine Institute of Volcanology said. [Source: Rosemarie Francisco, Reuters, August 31, 2012 ><]

“The mayor of Guiuan, Annalisa Quan, told local radio there was no report of major damage. The head of the national disaster agency, Benito Ramos, said one woman was killed in Cagayan de Oro town on the island of Mindanao when heavy rain and the quake triggered a landslide that buried her house. A child was injured. Samar congressman Ben Evardone told local radio some bridges and roads were damaged and people had fled from coastal areas in panic, seeking refuge inland. ><

"We're used to quakes here so residents immediately went to higher ground," Pinky Almaite, a resident of Sulat, a seaside town in Eastern Samar, told Reuters. "Many were running as they took with them whatever their hands could carry - flashlights, food, clothes, some even took their cows." Large parts of Samar and Leyte province had no power or internet connections. "The only lights you see are from vehicles in the streets headed to higher ground," said a radio reporter in the town of Borongan. ><

“The tsunami warning was initially issued for the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, Papua New Guinea and other islands in the Pacific including the U.S. state of Hawaii. Small waves of about 16 cm (6 inches) had hit a southern Philippine island, the seismology agency said, and warned that bigger ones could follow and residents were ordered to get to ground 10 meters (30 feet) above sea level. ><

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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