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Philippine Red Cross prepares for the ‘Big One’

With the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS’) recent warning about a magnitude 7.2 earthquake that could be generated by the West Valley Fault, the Philippine Red Cross yesterday disclosed that it is continuously upscaling its preparations to ensure efficient response should this dreaded “Big One” occur.

PRC Chairman Richard J. Gordon said the humanitarian organization has been preparing for an earthquake of such magnitude since the Metropolitan Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study came out some years back by upgrading its resources and assets to be able to extend the necessary assistance during such a mass casualty event.

“For a long time, the PRC has been continuously preparing for emergency responses. When the MMEIRS came out several years ago, the Red Cross has started its preparations. We started building an armory of vehicles, equipment, and others that could be deployed in response to the mass casualty incident that an earthquake of such magnitude would cause,” he added.

Studies showed that at least an estimated 34,000 people will be killed, 90 % will be due to pressure from collapsed buildings, while another 18,000 will perish in the fires that the quake could trigger. Close to 114,000 will be heavily injured.

Some 168,000 buildings will be heavily damaged or will collapse. Water, electricity and communication lines will be cut off due to damaged water pipelines, electricity cables, telephone cables. At least 7 out of 213 bridges and 80 flyovers have strong possibilities of collapsing.

Gordon said that over the years, the PRC has acquired vehicles that can be used in responding to large-scale disasters such as ambulances, rescue trucks, Blood Mobile, fire trucks, Fork Lifts, Pay loaders, Humvees, water tanker, among others.

It also has various equipment that would be useful should a strong earthquake hit Metro Manila such as generators, tower lights, water bladder, satellite phones, tents for temporary shelters, portable comfort rooms. And since hospitals would become jam-packed with patients in such eventuality, the PRC has medical tents, and Emergency Field Hospitals that can cater to those who could no longer be accommodated in the hospitals.

Gordon assured that manpower-wise, the PRC has highly-trained and skilled staff and volunteers who can operate the different rescue vehicles and function as crew for them. He added the Red Cross 143 also strengthens the organization’s disaster management and risk reduction capacity.

The PRC chairman disclosed that the organization’s deployment of several teams to earthquake-hit Nepal served as a drill for the members of the emergency response unit and the medical team.