When an earthquake hits Manila, what will rescuers do?
MANILA, Philippines – When an earthquake strikes, what happens to Manila if it’s isolated from different cities and help could not get in?
On Thursday, July 30, Metro Manila schools, establishments and local governments carried out one of the biggest earthquake drills ever held in the country's capital region. (WATCH: Highlights: The Metro Manila Shake Drill)
This is based on a scenario of a magnitude-7.2 earthquake hitting the metro. According to the 2004 Metropolitan Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS), it could cause 40% of buildings in Metro Manila to collapse and could kill about 33,500 people.
Because Manila is the second city in the country most vulnerable to earthquakes given its proximity to two fault lines (the Manila Trench and the West Valley Fault), the local government prepared for a scenario of difficulty in doing rescue operations. (READ: How vulnerable is Manila to earthquakes?)
At 10:30 am, cars along Roxas Boulevard were stopped by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), signaling the simulation of a 45-second ground shaking.
Injured people, rescued by the barangay rescuers came from Diamond Hotel, Ramon Magsaysay building, New World Hotel, and Land Bank. They were treated depending on the seriousness of the injury. Among the 13 injured people, 8 sustained minor injuries, while others sustained serious injuries.
“On foot lang tayo lahat [during rescue]. Kasi ang scenario dito, walang makapasok na ambulansya eh kaya wala tayong gagamiting ambulansya,” said Ronnie Rivera, operations officer of MMDA assigned in Manila. (Every one's on foot [during rescue]. The scenario here is, no ambulance could get in, we couldn't use any.)
In the event of an actual earthquake hitting the city, here are different ways injured people in Manila can be rescued.
From the assessment, 5 of them sustained serious injuries such as broken arm (right side), heart attack, leg fracture, neck injury, leg injury (left side). Using spine boards, they were then carried by the barangay rescuers to the nearest shore, where 5 rubber boats from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) were waiting.
They were brought to BRP Pampanga (AU- 003) which served as the hospital ship. Also set up by the PCG, it was located about 600 meters from the shore.
"That is a survivor ship. Kaya nandoon tayo sa dagat, pag puno na yung land, itatakbo na sa dagat. Para itatakbo naman nung ship sa hospital kung saan malapit," according to Lieutenant Benny Escobar of PCG.
(That's a survivor ship. We were there because if the land is [impassable], those injured would be transferred to the sea. They will then be brought to the nearest hospital.)
Inside were doctors ready to give further assistance to those with serious injuries. Medical equipment such as IVs, and oxygen tanks were prepared. An isolation room was also provided for the one who suffered a heart attack.
"Hindi lang tayo puwedeng mag-opera. First aid lang tayo doon," Escobar said. (We can't do medical operations there, though. We can only give first aid treatment.)
Almost 100 PCG personnel participated in this drill. Other rubber boats were also stationed in different parts of Metro Manila.
"We deployed 14 floating assets in Manila Bay, Pasig River, Sta Ana (Manila) and Marikina,” PCG spokesperson Commander Armand Balilo said.
Meanwhile, in Pasig river, the PCG's boats were used to transfer casualties from Sta Ana to Intramuros.
If an actual earthquake were to happen today, there are two ships on stand by along Manila Bay, said Escobar.
"Every day, laging may naka-standby na ship sa [Pier 15]. Isa o dalawa. Hindi puwedeng mawala yan," he said. (Every day, there's always a ship on standby at Pier 15. One or two. We'll always have that.) "Even the private yachts are also ready to help."
As the 5 injured were being assesed and treated inside the hospital ship, a much smaller vessel, also prepared by the PCG was waiting right beside it. This was used to transfer those with serious injuries who would need more intensive assistance, to an actual hospital.
Once those injured were transferred, the boat went straight to the shore of Manila Bay located near the ASEANA complex. From there, a chopper headed to the nearest hospital in Pasay was supposed to wait. However, it did not arrive because it was used for another event, said Escobar.
"Sa pinakamalapit na mga ospital, katulad ng St Luke's, Makati Medical Doctor's Hospital o sa may mga helipad, doon ibabagsak yan," (Nearest hospitals such as St Luke's or Makati Medical Center, or those with helipad – that's where injured people will be brought.)
The chopper was also provided by the Philippine Coast Guard, according to Escobar.
"May sariling chopper din ang Coast Guard. Yun din ang ginamit sa Marikina, kasi di ba sabay-sabay," he said. (The coast guard has its own chopper. It was used in Marikina (during the simultaneous drill.)
Is PCG ready?
When asked if the PCG has enough rubber boats to sustain that kind of rescue, Escobar said he believes so.
"Yes. The Philippine Coast Guard Auxillary (PCGA) and PCG, we have. You see the 101 [rubber boat] used? That's PCGA's. We assist and support the PCG."
Even private helicopters, according to Escobar, are ready to help, if the Big One strikes.
"Marami, actually pati mga private helicopters contact na rin ng [Department of Transportation and Communications] DOTC na ipapagamit. Yung mga private yan ah, puwedeng tumulong 'yan sa lifting [tuwing may sakuna]," Escobar said. ([We have] a lot. Actually, even private helicopters are in contact with DOTC. They can help with lifting during disasters.)
In an actual earthquake, however, "how fast the response should be is [still] being studied,” Balilo said. “We have to discuss which areas have to be improved.” – Rappler.com