By Beting Laygo Dolor i Contributing Editor
Philippine authorities were still estimating the damage to infrastructure in the wake of the daily earthquakes that rocked the country throughout last week.
While the strongest temblor was recorded at magnitude 6.5 in the Visayas, it was the magnitude 6.1 quake in the main island of Luzon that caused the most damage.
Specifically, a four-storey building in Pampanga province that housed the Chuzon supermarket on the ground floor collapsed, resulting in at least 18 fatalities.
Damage was greatest in the Central Luzon province due to its relatively soft ground, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvolcs). Aside from the collapsed supermarket, some 138 homes were reported as being seriously damaged in Pampanga and Bataan.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council estimated damage to schools, roads and bridges in Region 3 – comprised of Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales – plus the National Capital Region at PHP 505 million, or roughly US$10 million.
The total figure is expected to rise substantially when the full effects of the earthquakes experienced throughout the rest of the country is reported by this week.
Large cracks were reported in the new Clark-Subic expressway, which links the two former US military facilities turned commercial and industrial centers in Pampanga and Zambales.
Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda said that among the fatalities was a toddler whose parents were both working in Korea.
In the capital city of Manila, a portion of the Emilio Aguinaldo College along Taft Avenue cracked and leaned against an adjoining building. Engineers generally agreed that the entire structure could still be saved, and classes which were suspended throughout last week were set to resume this week.
One of the country’s busiest airports outside of Metro Manila, the Clark International Airport, suffered serious damage but was operational after one week. Clark was previously one of the biggest air bases of the US until it was forced to close due to the effects of the Pinatubo eruption. Also, the Philippine Senate had voted not to renew the US lease on the base.
The period April 22 to 28 could be considered “earthquake week” as temblors were experienced in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
The temblors were not connected and more than 400 aftershocks were felt throughout the archipelago in the week just passed.
The last deadly earthquake in the country (which is part of the Pacific “Ring of Fire”) occurred in 1990 at magnitude 7.7 with some 1,600 fatalities. Philvolcs has consistently warned of another overdue powerful quake.
Often referred to as the “Big One,” the anticipated killer quake can cause as many as 30,000 fatalities, hundreds of thousands of injuries and billions of pesos in damage to property, according to Philvolcs.
The biggest danger is in Metro Manila as large parts of the metropolis lies atop the West Valley fault.
Philvolcs has often stated that the expected big one “is not a matter of if, but of when.”