New school buildings are built to withstand quakes — DepEd

January 18, 2010 2:23 pm 

By Hannibal C. Talete

MANILA, Jan. 18 -– Department of Education-National Capital Region (DepEd-NCR) director Teresita Domalanta on Monday assured that newly-built school buildings in Metro Manila were constructed to withstand earthquakes even as strong as the temblor which recently devastated a large portion of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince.

Domalanta said: “NCR (National Capital Region) school buildings are built to withstand Intensity 10 earthquakes.”

Domalanta added that DepEd, in coordination with local government units and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), have been “hardening” schools for the past two years following an assessment conducted by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DOWH) which identified several schools in Metro Manila as vulnerable to earthquakes and in need of immediate rehabilitation.

DPWH Bureau of Design and Structural Division chief, engineer Wilfredo Lopez said they have assessed more than 2,000 public buildings in the metropolis, including schools and hospitals.

As a result of the DPWH-led assessment, two public schools were ordered closed while the rest have to undergo repair and strengthening of foundation.

In addition, DepEd has also trained 127 civil engineers to undertake the disaster quick response project to ensure the structural integrity of schools. The training was conducted under the auspices of DPWH, local government units and the Association of Structural Engineers of the Philippines (ASEP).

The DepEd pointed out that preparations for an earthquake were carried out not only in Metro Manila but also among so-called calamity and typhoon-prone areas such as the Bicol region where more than two dozen such buildings were set up.

The schools were elevated one meter above the ground, has a ceiling reinforced by 20-millimeter steel bars and equipped with rest rooms, a kitchen, toilets and ample water supply.

The sturdy structure can accommodate at least 60 people when used as an evacuation center.

Aside from the ensuring the structural integrity of the schools, Domalanta said they are also strengthening earthquake drills to prepare students for any eventuality.

Even the DepEd Central Office in Pasig City conducts a twice-a-year quake drills participated by hundreds of its employees.

Earlier, the MMDA urged local government officials and the public to prepare for the possibility of an earthquake hitting the metropolis as it admitted that current preparations are still inadequate to cope with a major temblor.

The agency said they have already trained 4,000 individuals for disaster quick response situations and targeting to train 10,000 more volunteers from the 17 local government units in the NCR.

A joint study by the MMDA, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) and other government agencies said a lack of preparation in the event of a strong quake could wreak havoc in the metropolis.

A similar report presented last year by a senior United Nations official at the Global Disaster Risk Reduction Conference in Geneva, Switzerland projected devastating impacts on Metro Manila assuming that a magnitude 7 plus strikes.

Arjun Katoh, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs cited a 2004 study conducted by the Earthquakes and Megacities Initiatives (EMI) that Metro Manila could be hit by a temblor with a magnitude of 7 or greater that could destroy some 16,000 buildings and cause 150,000 injuries though he did not predict a date.

Even Renato Solidum Jr., director of the Phivolcs, said lack of preparation in the event of a 7.2 quake could wreak havoc in Metro Manila adding it would affect around 38 percent of residential buildings, 14 percent of high-rise builings and 35 percent of public buildings not to mention the numerous casualties.

The MMDA said aside from training of rescue and emergency personnel from the local government units, the agency is also training police and military personnel and even college students in disaster search and rescue operations as early as 2004.

The agency also said that while preparations are already in place, strict implementation of laws (Building Code) and continuous government funding will play a key role in minimizing casualties and property damage.

The MMDA has already put in place rescue vans with equipment for search and rescue operation, tools and medicines in high-risk areas in 22 barangays in the cities of Manila, Quezon City, Marikina, and Pasig City.

The vans are equipped powerful hydraulic tools for cutting and digging through debris as well as first aid equipment needed for search and rescue operations.

The country’s preparation in the event of a major earthquake is gaining attention following the devastation in the Caribbean nation of Haiti last week.

Authorities said as many as 200,000 people died in the earthquake that brought great destruction to the nation, particularly to Port-au-Prince. (PNA)

V3/HCT

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