On February 6, 2023, dreadful news shocked the whole world. A whopping 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude earthquake jolted Turkey and Syria at around 4:17 am (local time). The earthquakes occurred in Southeast Turkey, specifically near the cities of Nurdagi and Gaziantep – sheltering millions of Syrian refugees, and in Northwest Syria, the cities of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama, and Idlib – where approximately 4 million people relied on humanitarian assistance due to the country’s economic crisis.
The snow and winter season had made surviving less guaranteed, as the total death count surmounted to 41, 000 lives lost and still counting as more bodies trapped in collapsed buildings are being recovered every day
In a more recent report, a 5.3 magnitude earthquake struck parts of Davao de Oro on Monday, March 6, which was followed by a stronger quake with magnitude 5.9 on the following day, March 7.
The earthquake that rocked Turkey and Syria, and certain regions in the Philippines revealed gaps in global disaster preparedness and response. It sheds light to the necessary measures needed in times of national emergencies, such as spreading awareness, thorough and appropriate training, and adhering to the different disaster codes.
The Big One: The Quake that is Yet to Come?
Geographically, the Philippines is in an earthquake-prone region of the planet as it is situated in the “Pacific Ring of Fire.” As a matter of fact, the country is currently monitoring changes in the West Valley Fault line, a 100km fault system which moves every 200-400 years, that traverses in the National Capital Region (NCR), particularly in Metro Manila, Taguig, Quezon City, and other neighboring cities.
This enormous fault line is in relation to what expert is referring to as, “The Big One” that may ensue once the West Valley Fault moves again, the last time being 365 years ago in 1658. The magnitude of the potential earthquake is difficult to predict accurately, but scientists estimate it could be as high as magnitude 7.2 or even stronger than the earthquake that transpired in Turkey and Syria.
The strength of an earthquake is measured on the Richter scale, which is logarithmic, meaning that a one-point increase in magnitude represents a ten-fold increase in the strength of the earthquake. The NCR, home to more than 13 million people and is considered the country’s economic evolution centre, is certainly at the risk of a disaster that is yet to unfold.
Leyte’s Fault Lines
The province of Leyte is no stranger to earthquakes with its active fault line system which includes the Central Leyte fault line that crosses the towns of Sogod, Libagon, Saint Bernard, and San Ricardo, and to some adjacent areas, such as Mahaplag, Ormoc City, Kananga, and more. The Central Leyte Fault line is part of the Philippine Fault Zone which extends throughout the country and is estimated to be 1,200-kilometers long.
Baybay City, Leyte, on the other hand, had experienced light yet unsettling ground shakes with magnitudes ranging from 1.8 to 3.3 recorded recently at the start of the month. The City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO) of Baybay City have been tenacious in taking steps to mainstream disaster preparedness in the locality; through unceasing lectures and seminars in equipping and empowering the community on what to do before, during, and after a natural disaster, such as unpredictable earthquakes.
One cannot fall short, especially if survival is at stake. The most common tips in surviving an earthquake is to DUCK, COVER, and HOLD - duck down to the floor, take cover under a sturdy table, and hold on until the ground shaking stops. Moreover, keep in mind to avoid going near dangerous spots such as glass windows, mirrors, falling objects, and heavy furniture. In cases when one is trapped inside a damaged structure, stay calm and call for help by making noises - may it be whistling, shouting, or tapping. But if you are outside, keep away from hazards or any falling debris or objects.
An earthquake is a sobering reminder of the power of nature and how fragile human life is. One moment everything is normal, then the next thing you know your life is changed forever. Every day is an opportunity to be aware and to learn what needs to be done. Unawareness and ignorance won’t save you nor anyone. Make every second of your life matter; grab it—and do not ever wait until The Big One grabs yours first.