Monday, October 21, 2013

The Bohol quake is about more than churches

October 17th marked the day of the Shakeout, an opportunity for people to run through the motions of an earthquake scenario to see how they would react in the event of a quake.

Last Thursday's simulation was made a lot more real in light of the 7.2 quake that shook the Philippines two days prior. In the last week there have been over 1900 aftershocks keeping tensions high and people on alert. The story that emerged from the Philippines in the days immediately following the quake was the damage done to many of the historic churches that dot the archipelago of islands. However, the human and community toll is just beginning to come into focus.

To give you an idea, the power released during a magnitude 7 earthquake is equivalent to that of 32 Million Tons of TNT; the largest US test of a Thermonuclear device only yielded the power of a Magnitude 6.0 Quake:
Thermonuclear blast from 'Castle Bravo Test' equivalent to 6.0 Quake
And while the Philippines is no stranger to shaking, having a front row seat along the Ring of Fire, coming on the heels of typhoon after typhoon affecting the north island of Luzon (think Manila), the country was already dealing with more than one crisis that has stretched the capacity and resources of its response capabilities.

Given the increasing impact and broadening of scope the quake has had on public/private enterprises and infrastructure, the Philippines isn't turning away the offers of international aid. However, in order to effectively utilize those offers of help, an understanding of the full scope of the quake remains the top priority. According to the latest sitrep from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council:
  • 186 are dead | 583 injured | 11 missing
  • Out of more than 600,000 families affected, 80,000+ have been displaced
  • Shelter populations: 96 Evacuation Shelters house 22,113 families
  • 45,641 homes have been damaged (10,020 destroyed / 35,621 partially damaged)
The sitrep is extremely detailed and while these numbers remain in a quasi-fluid state, given that its been less than a week and some of the areas have been cut off until recently, having detailed situational awareness early on will help focus attention and resources on areas where the needs remain acute.

The Digital Rumor Mill

As was probably the case in India leading up to Phailin's landfall, the challenge of dealing with misinformation via social networks and SMS chains remains a challenge for those managing preparedness and recovery efforts. reported this message causing panic and confusion:

While subsequent messaging from government agencies was sent to refute this message as well as the rumors of a new Volcano forming in the region, unease among residents trying to begin on their road to recovery remains present.

In the face of the disaster rumor mill, ongoing aftershocks, remote areas continuing to need immediate assistance, and the capital city reeling from an intense Typhoon season, those who are responsible for dealing with the aftermath of last week's temblor have their work cut out for them.

After looking at what's happened and continues to happen to the people of the Philippines, waiting and wondering when the ground will settle down...I wonder if those who participated in the Shakeout drills considered how they would deal with a lack of information and what they could do to help prepare mentally for something so unexpected.

For those who have been impacted and those who are there to help, be safe.

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