"Let’s do it before it's too late."
Last Thursday at 8:23 p.m, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake occurred underwater, 231 kilometers off the coast of Davao Occidental.
The tremor, which shook a large part of Mindanao and was felt in various intensities in Gen. Santos City, Davao City, Cagayan de Oro City and Zamboanga City,
Fortunately, the quake of tectonic origin 116 kilometers deep in the Philippine Trench was too deep to cause a tsunami or a tidal wave, according to Phivolcs.
It caused practically no damage nor casualty unlike the destructive quakes that hit the same region in October and December 2019, displacing thousands of residents.
Understandably, the news accounts on Thursday’s earthquake were earth-shaking enough to attract as much attention as the issue of red-tagging of the University of the Philippines and the concerts at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
However, the increasingly frequent occurrences of earthquakes might add to our anxieties during this time of uncertainty amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and in the face of the threat of an outbreak of coronavirus UK variants.
The fact that we are lacking in preparation for contingencies does not help our cause at all.
The same holds true in the beginning of COVID-19 epidemic this month last year.
Despite the agonizing months of community quarantine, the country’s total COVID-19 cases soared to 513, 619, including 10,242 deaths.
We are hoping and praying that COVID-19 vaccines would arrive soon and that they would work as well against the new coronavirus strains that have reached our shores.
We can also only hope and pray that no major natural disaster such as earthquakes and tidal waves, super typhoons and volcanic eruptions would ever strike us.
It is preposterous though to discount and dismiss the possibility of these natural calamities ever happening as there has been a pattern of recent occurrences of earthquakes in the country and in the southeast Asian "Pacific Ring of Fire."
In the first six months of 2019 alone, Phivolcs recorded as much as 5,065 earthquakes although the majority of them were weak vibrations with a magnitude of less than 3.0.
Unfortunately earthquakes cannot be accurately predicted or tracked unlike oncoming storms or typhoons such that we even have names ready for them.
Since we cannot foretell when The Big One is coming, we can only prepare for such eventuality even as the possible devastation it would be unimaginable.
According to experts, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake is estimated to cause 34,000 deaths and 114,000 injuries in Metro Manila due to fire and structural damage.
We have to prepare for the worst scenario, particularly in Metro Manila and other urban areas in the Visayas and Mindanao.
We have to ensure the food supply, evacuation centers or shelter for families that would be rendered homeless, and emergency medical assistance to the injured.
We must ensure peace and order will not break down and aggravate people’s suffering.
It has happened in the past and can happen again.
In 1968, a magnitude-7.3 earthquake rocked the metropolis, damaged many buildings and infrastructure, and caused the collapse of Ruby Tower in Binondo, manila, killing at least 300. Countless individuals were injured.
A magnitude 8.1 earthquake on August 17, 1976 generated by the movement along the Cotabato trench produced massive tsunami waves as high as nine meters, killing more than 8,000 people.
This was followed by many more, including the 2013 Yolanda Tacloban, 1990 Luzon earthquake, the 1991 Pinatubo eruption, the 2013 Bohol earthquake.
We cannot take anything for granted anymore. We need to unite and get prepared for these eventualities before it's too late.