Cebu, Mandaue brace for quakes

EIGHT years after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Bohol and Cebu on Oct. 15, 2013, disaster offices in Cebu still need more personnel, training and better coordination with other government units to better respond to another earthquake.

In Mandaue City, the earthquake damaged two big structures, the Cebu International Convention Center and the Mandaue public market. A vendor died in the market after debris struck her head.

The Mandaue City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CDRRMO) admitted that the city still needs evacuation centers and more personnel today.

Karlo Cabahug, research and planning head of the MCDRRMO, told SunStar Cebu that the city still lacks more evacuation sites or a permanent evacuation site as it is one of the main items that they still have to give priority to in disaster preparedness and management.

But they are thankful to the Department of Education and local barangay officials for always opening their doors and lending their facilities for use as temporary evacuation centers during calamities.

The distance learning situation of the city today amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Cabahug said, keeps the children from any school ground disasters such as a large earthquake.

The 2013 earthquake struck during a public holiday, so children were also not in school when the ground started shaking violently then.

Cabahug said Mandaue City has 115 personnel in its operations division and 46 for the other divisions who could respond to the threat, but they would not be enough considering that the active Central Cebu Fault line is an impending threat to Cebu province.

This is why Cabahug said they are pushing the local barangay officials down to the purok levels to establish their own Emergency Response Teams through training, discussions and drills.

“We need to instill the mindset that disaster preparedness is not just the responsibility of the CDRRMO but also of the community people. Unlike typhoons, earthquakes do not have warning signs. That is why it takes a greater deal of preparation,” said Cabahug.

With the measures and the implementation of the City’s Systematic Approach Towards Resiliency (Star) and Purok-based Disaster Resiliency, Cabahug said they are certain that the establishments and the community will be properly prepared and resilient if disasters such as large earthquakes strike.

To assess the risk in building structures in Mandaue City, Cabahug said the Office of the Building Official is strict in its enforcement of the Department of Public Works and Highways memorandum on earthquake recording instruments to be installed on buildings.

Buildings at least 50 meters in height are required to install ERI or Accelerograph to record seismic activity. This instrument will provide data for their engineers to assess whenever there is an incident of ground shaking, said Cabahug.

Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes told SunStar Cebu that he envisions the city to be resilient like Japan in handling disasters. This is why the acquisitions of the city have been more directed to the CDRRMO.

He said one reason for purchasing the mobile command center was to have one command that directs all units in times of disaster to ensure proper coordination.

In Cebu City, there is also equipment to respond to disasters, but disaster response personnel could benefit from more training in different rescue situations.

Ramil Ayuman, head of the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CCDRRMO), said it has 300 personnel divided into the quick response team and the emergency medical service and another 800 trained personnel based in 80 barangays in the city ready to save lives.

The CCDRRMO has 21 active ambulances, not counting the ambulances based in different barangays, two rescue vehicles with life-saving equipment, three water tankers, a fire engine, dump truck, payloader and other equipment.

Ayuman said the City Government no longer has buildings vulnerable to earthquakes of moderate intensity since the ones that were destroyed in 2013 were all demolished such as the old Cebu City Medical Center and the former Pasil Fish Market.

In the event of an earthquake, the CCDRRMO head encouraged residents to make sure to evacuate to vacant spaces so as not to be struck by debris and stay calm.

He said their personnel did not yet have enough capacity to conduct rescues in collapsed buildings.

But he said there are government agencies such as the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Office of Civil Defense, Bureau of Fire Protection and other branches that will help save lives.

The CCDRRMO is now profiling residents in the barangays so they can be easily monitored during a disaster.

The CCDRRMO also seeks to establish a permanent communication base with other government agencies so that communication can be facilitated, especially during emergencies. (KFD, PAC / CTL)