pop goes the world: shake, rattle, and roll

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  9 February 2012, Thursday

Shake, Rattle, and Roll

There must be something to this “feng shui” business after all.

Astrologers using this Chinese version of geomancy predicted that this year of the Black Water Dragon will be, like the legendary animal, unpredictable and unstable.

A water dragon year occurs once every 60 years. The Water Dragon connotes creativity. Image here.

What can be more unstable than an earthquake rattling the usually calm islands of the Visayas?

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s report of 12:30 AM of February 7, about 13 hours after the quake, detailed the situation and initial responses to the disaster.

The main 6.9 magnitude earthquake of tectonic origin was felt the strongest in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental (Intensity VII) all the way to Pagadian City (Intensity I). Various areas in Negros Occidental and Cebu experienced the main shock at Intensity II to VI. There were 157 aftershocks recorded in the same areas.

Quake map. Image here.

A Level 2 tsunami alert was raised and cancelled after a couple hours, although coastal areas experienced inundation which had residents scrambling for higher ground, among them Comendador Beach in La Libertad, where five seaside cottages were wiped out.

La Libertad, at this time, is isolated, with bridges and roads leading to the area having suffered extensive damage. The regional office of the Department of Public Works and Highways estimates up to five days to find an alternate route, and two weeks to build it.

The power went out in Cebu and Iloilo, among other areas; classes and work were suspended. Evacuation operations were initiated in several barangays in the municipalities of Moalboal (southwest of Cebu) and Bindoy.

People in Negros and Cebu reported, via Twitter and Facebook, the strong shaking of shelves and other furniture and cracks appearing in the walls of homes and commercials buildings. Bridges, roads, and other infrastructure were damaged, to the tune of P265 million and counting.

NDRRMC, within hours of the disaster, activated their emergency operations center, disseminated alerts and information to other concerned government agencies, and coordinated closely with PHILVOLCS and the Office of Civil Defense, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Coast Guard.

The mobilization of the police and military resulted in the dispatch of search-and-rescue teams to scour for victims in distress.

Local authorities requested drinking water, medicines, and medical supplies from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office as among the priority needs. Yesterday, PCSO approved the disbursement of P100,000 via its Cebu branch for the purchase of the items.

By yesterday, the Department of Social Welfare and Development had already provided over P12.426 million in relief in the form of cash-for-work and food items to affected LGUs and families. The Department of Health provided P200,000.

DPWH sent structural engineers to perform damage assessment of bridges and roads, and to determine which commercial buildings may safely reopen so that economic activity may resume as soon as possible.

Road damage in Negros Oriental. Image here.

President Benigno Aquino, celebrated his birthday yesterday by inspecting for himself the damage, receiving assessment reports, and instructing public officials and agency heads to step up their rescue, relief, and rehabilitation efforts.

After the other unsettling natural events of recent months – typhoon Sendong last December 17, the Compostela Valley landslide last January 5 – it’s good to see public agencies become more responsive as they improve their systems and procedures for dealing with natural disasters.

They’ve come a long way from the Ondoy debacle in 2009, when government unpreparedness was dismally apparent, from the lack of rubber boats that would have been of much use, to the glacial slowness of information dissemination and relief/rescue response.

Practice makes perfect, after all, although this kind of “practice” we don’t need. Let us hope we are spared the further depredations of nature. And should it be our burden to bear more of the same, may we be even more prepared in the future.

From a culture of bahala na and puede na ‘yan, we are gradually shifting to a proactive, responsible attitude where we learn from our mistakes and do better the next time.

In this case, what matters is for both public and concerned private organizations to create the systems and procedures for disaster response, have the will to quickly implement and follow-through on those, and maintain the appropriate personnel and equipment for the tasks. Let’s make this not a ningas-kugon nor a pakitang-gilas thing, but a permanent positive change.

The Black Water Dragon may continue to rampage this year. We can choose to roll with the tides of fortune, but I would rather we chart the course of our own destiny.   *** 

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