Lessons from the 1990 Killer Earth Quake-A A +A
By Art Tibaldo
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
WHEN the great killer Quake struck Northern Luzon and left massive damages to both lives and property in July 16, 1990, many tragic stories, sad experiences and traumatic experiences were heard from those who survived. It also gave us hard lessons that we are not likely to forget for a long time.
On that very same day, my wife Helen was about to give birth to my daughter Timtam via Cesarean Section at the SLU Hospital but then we were all shook up by that big quake and Baguio and many parts of North Luzon became powerless for weeks. The city was isolated due to collapse of bridges and massive erosion on mountain slopes so we were airlifted to La Union via US choppers and luckily to Villamor Airbase via AFP Fokker plane with then DND Sec. Fidel V. Ramos who prioritized the immediate evacuation of the injured and those needing immediate medical help.
In memory of those who departed including our Baguio Media elders who just passed away, Timtam joined Manong Ramon Dacawi at Busol Watershed along with teachers and pupils of Rizal Elementary School and San Vicente Elementary School to replant the forest with new seedlings.
Now a senior citizen, Manong Mondax, in compliance to his doctor’s advice can no longer climb the steep mountain and accompany the children to the watershed’s summit where he usually points to them the distant landscape of Baguio City telling how a concrete jungle looks like from the forest.
After telling the children how the Eco-Walk Program started from a simply inquiry of where water from the faucet came from up to the realization that it actually came from the forest which the children all agreed to visit, Mondax stressed the value of planting trees and caring for the forest.
I can still remember the many resolutions and outputs of the planning congress that was formed after the tragic quake of 1990. One of the suggested resolutions then was on the limiting of heights of buildings to about four-storey only which was consistent to an old Marcos idea that buildings in Baguio shouldn’t be taller than a mature pine tree.
I remember what Dr. Raymundo Punongbayan once told us during a seminar on disaster preparedness that a person staying in a building should right away go up to the highest level and not go down as there is more chance to survive at the upper level. The liquefaction that happened in the Dagupan, Pangasinan area, the massive soil erosion that occurred in Benguet and the upheaval in Barangay Digdig, Caranglan, Nueva Ecija also revealed the different effects of earthquake that originated from Tectonic and Vulcanic activities of the earth.
Here are some helpful tips on what to do in case an earth quake happens: Firstly, a person should drop to the ground, take cover by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and hold on until the shaking stops. If there is no table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture. Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture, window or anything else that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place like under the beam or horizontal support that are anchored between two walls.
Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported. Brace yourself on the side with the hinges to avoid the door swinging at you. Stay inside until shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on. Do not use the elevators, even if they are working as there may be aftershocks. If you are lodges in a hotel room, stay there. There are usually aftershocks, and sometimes they may be worse than the original earthquake. Under a sturdy desk or in an inside corner of your room is the safest place to be, even if you're on the 40th floor. If there's a heavy bookcase next to a match-stick desk, don't get under the desk.
Kayte Dejoma of the Los Angeles Travel online magazine who wrote “Earthquake Safety What to Do During an Earthquake” suggested that if you are in a restaurant, get under the table and if you are outdoors, stay there and move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires. Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits, and alongside exterior walls. Many of the 120 fatalities from the 1933 Long Beach earthquake occurred when people ran outside of buildings only to be killed by falling debris from collapsing walls Dejoma narrated.
Open spaces in Baguio like the Melvin Jones football field and the athletic oval in Burnham Park were the safest places then as it served as the temporary shelter thereby a tent city that stayed there for months. Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury and statistics show that most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects. Let us not forget the hard lessons learned during the great quake of Baguio. We should be able to know what to do during disasters because the worst thing can happen if we do not know what to do when disaster strikes.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on July 17, 2012.