WEDNESDAY morning, I was watching the news when the TV started dancing. It was 8:40 AM on my clock. The shaking became more violent so I had to hold the TV set. As the earthquake struck, people along Magsaysay Avenue were screaming and scampering in all directions.
I could not see anybody doing the “drop, cover, and hold on” drill that has been continuously taught to school children, teachers, and government office staff. The earthquake drill was supposed to be done when the ground shakes.
Truth is, humans forget about what has been practiced several times when the real temblor strikes. I admit I did not drop, cover, and hold when the house and everything in it was shaking. Instead, I obeyed my natural reaction and just held on to the TV to stop it from falling.
That’s it. The earthquake shook us, we were rattled and confused, and then we rolled. Nobody dropped, covered, and held on as instructed during drill school. Maybe we wasted time trying hard to implant discipline into our brains.
Then the shaking subsided. I ran down outside the house to find my little boys huddled with their parents at the garage entrance. Thank God, no one was hurt. Inside the rooms, boxes and books were on the floor.
In the kitchen, a collection of rare whiskey and wine bottles and ceramic figurines that were fixed on top of the ref fell. As I picked up the broken pieces, I thought to myself that if the shaking took longer than 30 seconds just like the 1990 killer earthquake, surely buildings toppled and several deaths could have been reported.
Later that morning, the US Geological Survey (USGS) came up with the first report saying the earthquake struck northern Luzon at magnitude 7.1 at 8:43 AM local time. The epicenter was about 13 kilometers southeast of the small town of Dolores, Abra province, and had a depth of 10 kilometers, according to USGS.
The magnitude 7.1 tremor was later downgraded to magnitude 7.0. However, still, it was so strong that it was felt in other parts of Luzon, including the Malacanang office of President Marcos who admitted to seeing the chandelier swinging. If so, that means the earthquake shook Manila as well.
Earlier, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported its death toll at only four, while some 131 persons sustained injuries. All four deaths happened in the Cordillera. Careless netizens confused the public, saying a fifth death occurred in Cagayan, but the NDRRMC found out that the news was fake upon verification
The NDRRMC reported that damages to 34 infrastructure in the Cordillera and Ilocos Region reached more than P30 M. Meanwhile, 11 houses were reported destroyed out of a total of 868 houses that were initially damaged.
I heard President Marcos say in a press briefing that they will try to help defray repair expenses of destroyed private houses after government assessment. That is good news and a first of its kind for destroyed houses getting refunded. Although, privately-owned real properties are repaid if these are encroached by public roads.
The NDRRMC reported that a total of 23 roads and five bridges were destroyed or closed to traffic by the earthquake. Five of these are access roads to Benguet, Baguio and the Cordillera. These are Kennon and Palispis-Aspiras highways, Beckel-Andres Cosalan highway, Bua-Itogon road, and Halsema highway that was totally blocked by a rockslide at the Bauko section.
The initial situational report by the NDRRMC said at least 12,945 individuals were affected. I do not exactly get what that means. Maybe the agency is talking about people who were physically affected which can be treated as time passes.
What is not easy to heal is the psychological effect and the mental trauma that the incident has brought to many individuals. The fear and experience brought by the 1990 killer earthquake comes back every time a temblor strikes.
Imagine the torture one gets with every aftershock. Dr. Renato U. Solidum Jr. of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) said they have recorded around 800 aftershocks since Wednesday. Imagine the shake, the rattle, the roll and torture.