‘Tsunami runners’ and others-A A +A
Monday, February 11, 2013
THE day that marked a year from the Feb. 6, 2012 major earthquake that hit Cebu went by with promises of better emergency infrastructure still unfulfilled.
A magnitude 6.9-earthquake shook Negros Oriental and Cebu a year ago with affected areas experiencing 1,802 aftershocks. All 51 fatalities were reported in Negros Oriental, while 15,787 houses were destroyed, according to government’s disaster risk reduction reports. It was the most destructive tremor in 2012 and the big one for Cebu after a very long time.
The earthquake and aftershocks also caused panic on Cebu streets when wrong information about a tsunami alert reminded people of images from disaster movies like “2012” and “The Day After Tomorrow.” What was later termed as the “tsunami run,” referring to the thousands who ran on the streets to escape rushing waters that never came, became the symbol of that earthquake in Cebu.
Promises were immediately made by Metro Cebu government officials to improve disaster preparedness, like the plan of Cebu City Hall to set up a command center complete with emergency communications system because the dissemination of more complete information could have prevented the panic.
A year since the temblor, the command center still has to be established and promises made towards improving disaster preparedness have yet to be fulfilled.
The Sun.Star website at www.sunstar.com.ph took a look at what happened last year, the emergency measures agreed upon, and the status of those plans. The special report carried an update from the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and a powerpoint presentation complete with different phases of implementation, the location of the command center and its layout.
The command center will serve as the central communications facility operating 24 hours a day and seven days a week to receive emergency calls, dispatch response units and monitor public safety operations. Electronic billboards will be used to spread information about the disaster and advise the public on what to do.
Executive Director Alvin Santillana said the plan is complete and the procurement of equipment like radio, large screen monitors, consoles and phone lines will start this week. He didn’t say how the disaster of disunity affecting the executive and legislative at City Hall would affect implementation of plans. But the disaster management council itself has a P160 million budget.
The Philippine volcanology agency based in Lapu-Lapu city has a seismometer that records the intensity, direction, and duration of earthquakes and intensity meters deployed in some parts of Central Visayas. Cebu has one intensity meter as of the moment, with more to be deployed starting April, said agency acting chief Robinson Jorgio. He admitted his office had equipment to detect tremors but it cannot predict when the next one will happen and it cannot give early warning signals.
The special report also carried a video report titled “Confessions of tsunami runners” and asked the question-–did government agencies pass or fail in their earthquake preparedness a year after the Feb. 6, 2013 temblor? The answer is left to Cebuanos.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 12, 2013.