Philippines: Legarda: Safe public infrastructure is crucial in earthquake resilience
“Earthquakes turn into major disasters due to unsafe and poorly built structures, inappropriate site location of infrastructure projects, inadequate design and materials specification, and shortcuts in construction. The government must ensure that all public structures, especially bridges, school buildings and hospitals, are earthquake-proof through the conduct of a nationwide structural evaluation and by retrofitting these structures to allow them to withstand destructive natural occurrences such as earthquakes. The additional expense required for making structures safe from earthquakes is essentially a good investment especially if it will save thousands of precious lives,” the former senator [Loren Legarda] explained.
She further reminded that the 2004 Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS), which was conducted by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), warned of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Metro Manila that may destroy 169,000 houses, damage about 35 percent of all public buildings, including schools and hospitals, city halls, fire and police stations, cause 34,000 deaths, injure 114,000 injuries, break 86 percent of water pipelines, interrupt electricity and telephone services, and segregate Metro Manila into four sectors isolated by collapsed structures, fires and damaged roads, thereby making evacuation and emergency response difficult.
Legarda said that other priority steps in earthquake preparedness include the regular conduct of safety drills; establishment of an early warning system for earthquake and tsunami; determining open spaces for safe refuge; and ensuring that back-up systems of vital utilities are in place for speedy recovery and rehabilitation efforts, and a ready evacuation plan in every barangay in the country.
Legarda also collaborated with various government agencies to produce the Disaster Preparedness and First Aid Handbook, which includes basic information on the causes, possible risks, what to do before, during, and after the occurrence of hazards such as earthquake, tsunami, volcanic eruption, tropical cyclone, flood, storm surge, thunderstorm, tornado, landslide, heat wave, structural collapse and fire.
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