Friday, May 29, 2015

The Marikina West Valley Fault Doomsday Scenario

Project Tremors

It has always been the government's worst nightmare: of the West Valley Fault system finally bursting forth, sending ripples of seismic waves across all directions. The resulting earthquake shakes, even the most structurally sound office and residential towers to its engineering limits. The occupants, mostly uninstructed on how the ground quivers, would easily capitulate to panic spells. Given their inexperience with the last great temblor, which happened on July 16, 1990, many would get hurt trying to escape to safer grounds. 

Word yet has to come from the hundreds of thousands of souls who live in substandard housing and apartment complexes; in shoddily constructed commercial buildings and factories that make up the urban sprawl. Had the ceilings above their heads get spared from collapsing, it is the following pandemonium brought by the nearby tectonic rupture they have to cope with. 

I could just imagine how difficult the rude awakening is.

The news is out, and an updated map detailing where the geographic fault line bisects the metropolis is now readily available on the internet. While knowledge is crucial for people living above and around the rift, (hoping they would settle elsewhere) it is in my opinion that thoughts have never been spared as to what happens after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, whose epicenter lies a few steps away from the Medical City strikes the capital. Should those who find this blog get to see another day, what heartbreaking scenes might await them?    

Let me share my worst-case scenario thoughts:

  • First to go is electricity. As the ground shakes, and the Napocor finds it too dangerous to operate while a major seismic activity is taking place, they will cut off power distribution across the city. Depending on how extensive the damage is, (downed electric poles and collapsed pylons, with wires dangling after being hit by falling debris) complete electrical restoration might take weeks. First to receive electricity are government nerve centers and hospitals. Last are the barangays, and what's left of the ruined communities.
  • No electricity means money dispensing machines won't operate. Gasoline stations, which might run on diesel-powered generators would obviously have limited operating hours. And since broadband cables have been ruptured, expect no internet and social media to connect with. And did I mention that since Globe and Smart need electricity to run their transmission systems, we could expect a total breakdown in communications during the first few hours after the earthquake?  

The spot where the Ruby Towers, which collapsed  on August 2, 1968 once stood

  • The absence of potable water. Busted main pipes connecting various sectors of the city; pumping stations that won't run because there is no electricity; broken septic tanks whose sewage get into the water distribution system; bring these into the fray, and what we have is a man-made disaster. For sure, water trucks would be dispatched to address this basic need, but with queues of people stretching forever, and sneaky misfits cutting lines just to get ahead with everyone, riots are never far from happening.
  • Queues everywhere. There are lines for charging cellphones, lines for gasoline and cooking oil distribution, lines for ATMs, lines for relief goods, lines for the dead identification (with the stench of putrefied flesh suspended in mid-air) and yes, lines for water replenishment. Add these queues together and maybe, thoughts of leaving the city to find refuge elsewhere might sound more practical.

Faultline marker at the Barangka Elementary School West Building in Marikina

  • The rise of the tent cities and field hospitals. I once told Ran that if the earth shakes and casualties number in their tens of thousands, we would see portions of Taft Avenue being converted into an extension of the Philippine General Hospital. And what about Luneta and the rest of the open spaces in Manila? Because an earthquake is never a one-time event, (the aftershocks can be as strong as the first tremor) people living in condominiums, and those who have lost their homes, who are probably dazed and shaken by the first wobble, will be forced to stay outdoors. They have nowhere else to go but in public parks where thousands more will be camping out during the first days after the earthquake. Universities, would be forced to open their gates to students and faculty members who need a place to stay. Never in our nations' history would there be so many people dwelling in the streets, competing for resources that should have been a-plenty, and wishing that had they foreseen how worse this natural disaster could be, they would make individual preparations that could have made their lives and their loved ones better.
These individual preparations, and what I have accomplished so far, will be taken up in the next installment of this blog entry.


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