Phivolcs to quake survivors: Get your houses checked by engineers

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 16 2019 07:02 PM

Soldiers walk among debris in Padada town, Davao del Sur province on the southern island of Mindanao on December 16, 2019, following a 6.9-magnitude earthquake on December 15. Manman Dejeto, AFP

Is your house ready for earthquakes? 

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) gave this advice Monday, saying survivors of the recent 6.9-magnitude earthquake in Mindanao should not stay in their houses unless they get an engineer to confirm that it can withstand another temblor.

"If their house is located in an area, which is hazardous – along landslide prone areas, liquefaction prone, and we think the house is already weakened to the point of collapse, it's better they stay out (of their homes),” Ishmael Narag, officer-in-charge of Phivolcs’ Seismological Observation and Earthquake Prediction Division, told ABS-CBN on Monday.

The recent 6.9-magnitude earthquake is the strongest major quake (magnitude 6 and up) to hit the Mindanao area since October. In October, four major earthquakes struck Cotabato, and left more than 20 people dead and tens of thousands homeless.

Structures that stayed standing after the first earthquake crumbled when the next ones hit. Meanwhile, many residents chose to sleep out in the open for weeks instead of staying in their houses as hundreds of aftershocks were felt in Cotabato and other affected areas.

Narag said Phivolcs is not discounting the possibility of another quake in Davao del Sur, especially as they are studying how the Tangbulan Fault, which most likely caused the 6.9-magnitude earthquake, is connected to the Cotabato Fault System that is responsible for the October quakes.

Fault lines that are interconnected can trigger each other because of “stress transfer,” he said.

“If they have suspicions (that their houses) are weakened but it’s not manifested, it’s better to consult with an engineer,” Narag advised Mindanao residents. “The engineer would bring tools to identify (if the house is structurally okay)."

Narag said an engineer would be able to give residents sound engineering advice to strengthen the structure of their houses and to “make it more resistant to future events (earthquakes).”

He pointed out that buildings are required to withstand “at least one (major disaster) not several events.”

Narag said people should also focus on response and recovery instead of reconstruction as they monitoring the fault movements in Mindanao.