FAST FACTS: The 1990 Luzon earthquake

Samantha Fanger
FAST FACTS: The 1990 Luzon earthquake
July 16, 2019 marks the 29th year since the 1990 Luzon earthquake

MANILA, Philippines – July 16, 2019 marks the 29th year since the 1990 Luzon earthquake.

Located within the Pacific Ocean’s Ring of Fire, the Philippines has had its share of earthquakes with varying magnitude. Sometimes, these earthquakes are more minor and even go unnoticed.

The earthquake that hit the island of Luzon in 1990 was no such case. Recorded at magnitude 7.8, the quake caused major damage to surrounding cities and claimed the lives of thousands. (MAP: Strongest earthquakes in the Philippines)

Twenty-nine years later, we look at the effects of the 1990 Luzon earthquake and the lessons learned.

Which areas were affected?

The 1990 earthquake occured at 4:26 pm and the shaking lasted for about 45 seconds.

The earthquake hit Northern and Central Luzon. Its epicenter was pinpointed at Nueva Ecija, with the most affected areas being the cities of Baguio, Cabanatuan in Nueva Ecija, and Dagupan in Pangasinan.

How many were the casualties? What were the damages?

An estimated 2,412 lives were lost during that day. Thousands were injured. (READ: Sonia Roco: Eyewitness to the 1990 Luzon earthquake)

According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs), “hundreds of thousands” of landslides were also recorded throughout Northern and Central Luzon. Other areas were subjected to liquefaction, which can cause sinkholes to form, particularly in the provinces of Tarlac, Pangasinan, and La Union.

Baguio suffered extensive damage to its buildings. Notably, structures including the Hyatt Terraces Plaza, Nevada Hotel, Baguio Hilltop Hotel, Baguio Park Hotel, and FRB Hotel were reduced to rubble and many people were buried alive. (READ: Remembering the 1990 Luzon Earthquake)

In all, it was estimated that the earthquake left a staggering US$369-million worth of damage in its wake.

What lessons have we learned and what should we do now?

A Rappler story published in 2014 detailed the lessons learned from the 1990 earthquake, as explained by then Phivolcs officer-in-charge Renato Solidum.

One major lesson learned from this devastating event is the necessity for nationwide preparation.

It is now much more common for schools and work-places to conduct earthquake drills. In fact, in February 2019, the country held its 1st Quarter Nationwide Simultaneous Earthquake Drill, led by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

The earthquake was also a wake-up-call for the government and other organizations to ensure that proper protocols are implemented in urban planning and construction. This includes ensuring that building codes are followed, and that buildings are not constructed in high-risk areas such as those that are prone to landslides or liquefaction. (READ: What if a magnitude 7.2 quake strikes Manila?)

As individuals, we also have a responsibility to be prepared. Emergency plans and supplies are just some of the ways households can prepare for the inevitable. (READ: What should households prepare for an earthquake)

A tragic part of our history, the 1990 Luzon earthquake highlighted the importance of taking into heart the lessons learned. More importantly, we need to do what we can to be aware and proactive about ensuring we are equipped for the potential hazards we may face in light of future natural disasters. (READ: How prepared is Metro Manila for a strong quake?– Rappler.com

Samantha Fanger is a Rappler intern from the Ateneo de Manila University.

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