Friday , June 22, 2018

Estremera: Drills are serious matters

IT'S eerie that we woke up on Wednesday, September 20, to news of a 7.1 magnitude earthquake that hit Mexico City just a day short of a supposed-to-be nationwide earthquake drill, which the organizers of what is being touted as a grand protest against the Duterte Administration on the anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law under the Marcos Administration were chiding government about.

From the news that reached us, the earthquake in Mexico killed at least 100 of which 21 are school children after the earthquake toppled parts of the Colegio Enrique Rebsamen. President Enrique Peña Nieto said over Foro TV that 27 buildings collapsed in the capital, although other reports said the number is at least 44. And this is 75 miles from the epicenter.

Adding a surreal feel to the earthquake is it happened on the 32nd anniversary of the Mexico's deadliest earthquake, where 100,000 were killed.

Just two weeks ago, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake hit southern west Mexico near Acapulco.

From all these we can say, earthquakes are no joke, and earthquake drills are serious matters.

Protest organizers may feel that they are more important than drills, which many do not join anyway, but facts would show, training ourselves as a people how to respond automatically can save a lot of lives.

It was just a few years ago when we saw in television how the Japanese comported themselves when the country was hit by a magnitude 8.1 earthquake on March 11, 2011. The people were walking fast away from the buildings they were but there was no stampede. There was efficiency to their movements. Of course, the resulting tsunami caused more than 15,000 to die. But that was another of nature's force that those on the way cannot easily outrun. Seeing that tsunami approach on live television, a less prepared nation would have had hundreds of thousands dead and not just 15,000.

But then, that is expected of the Japanese, as their country is the most hit among all countries in the Pacific ring of fire, such that even their architecture through history has already been built with strong earthquakes.

Are we even that advanced?

Yes, we see tall buildings around us, much like the tall buildings in Mexico City. Can all these withstand a major quake? Forty-four in Mexico City didn't, and if you've been there, you can say that on the totem pole of development, we are notches lower.

We cannot even be bothered by drills.

We were in Metro Manila two years ago when a nationwide earthquake drill was scheduled. We were booked in a hotel, we were in one of its function rooms preparing for an event when the siren rang out. My friends and I walked out to the parking lot of a mall next door, hands dutifully on our heads, and guess what?

We were the only guests who did, and were the first ones to be out there.

Those who came after us were all hotel staff, and they came out by departments.

True, these are but drills. Boring, sometimes inconvenient. But this is all about training our automatic response and being aware of where to go in a setting where the panic is not part of the equation, because when the real one comes, our automatic response and imbibed awareness on what to watch out for and where to go can save us.