OCD picks up key lessons from Taiwan earthquake

The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) said the mitigating measures implemented by Taiwan over the years bore fruit which was evident in the contained impact of a powerful earthquake there recently.

OCD Administrator Ariel Nepomuceno said Taiwan’s preparedness has “improved a lot through the years” and this level of preparedness is something that he aspires for the Philippines to achieve.

“So much importance was put on interventions for earthquake-resistant buildings. The reported deaths and injuries caused by the recent earthquake are much lesser compared to the magnitude 7.6 earthquake that hit their country in 1999,” he said.

Taiwan was rocked by a magnitude 7.4 earthquake on April 3, killing at least 13 people and injuring more than 1,100 others. It was reported to be the strongest temblor to hit the country in the past 25 years, but the impact was lesser compared to the 1999 quake which killed 2,400 and injured 10,000 individuals.

In the local setting, Nepomuceno reiterated the importance of strengthening engineering solutions and building code compliance in preparation for earthquakes, particularly the “Big One.”

This refers to the projected worst-case scenario when a magnitude 7.2 earthquake hits the country due to the movement of the West Valley Fault.

“Engineering solutions and building compliance are the best preparedness measures for earthquakes. We really need to ramp up our efforts for these alongside other measures. We need to ensure that buildings and facilities are resilient enough to withstand strong earthquakes,” he said.

Aside from this, the OCD is spearheading quarterly nationwide simultaneous earthquake drills (NSED) to increase the level of preparedness by the public for the Big One.

According to the Metropolitan Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS 2004), this is considered to potentially cause the largest impact to Metro Manila.

It said the West Valley Fault, a fault system which runs from Bulacan to Laguna, has moved at least four times and generated strong earthquakes within the last 1,400 years. 

The approximate return period of the earthquakes is 400 to 600 years and the last known event along the West Valley Fault was on 1658.

“Again, let us be reminded of the casualty projection for the magnitude 7.2 earthquake generated by the West Valley Fault. At least 48,000 individuals might die in the Greater Metro Manila Area. This is a very clear indication that there are a lot of things that we must do to advance our preparedness for earthquakes,” Nepomuceno stressed.