Reporting the Surigao Quake: Coping with the Aftermath, Preparing for the “Big One”
IN THE Philippines, tremors happen almost every day; many occurring without notice except by the agencies and experts involved. According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) the country experienced 467 “seismic events” in first two months of 2017 before the 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit Surigao City in northeastern Mindanao.
On February 10, the quake shook Surigao del Norte and nearby provinces at around 10 pm, causing people to flee to the nearest evacuation sites. Phivolcs classified the disaster as intensity 7. The earthquake caused eight deaths; 140 were recorded injured and the damage to property and infrastructure reached PHP688 million.
CMFR reviewed reports of newspapers Manila Bulletin, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Philippine Star, Daily Tribune, Malaya, Manila Standard and The Manila Times; news programs 24 Oras and Saksi (GMA-7), Aksyon and Aksyon Tonite (TV5), Network News and the Newsroom (CNN Philippines) and TV Patrol and Bandila (ABS-CBN 2); and some online news websites from February 10 to 17, 2017.
CMFR notes the leveling up of disaster reporting in the media reportage of the recent earthquake. The coverage avoided sensationalism by focusing less on grief and drama. The press covered the relief and rehabilitation efforts, the way Filipinos cope with challenges posed by disaster of this magnitude. Some reports highlighted the spirit of bayanihan shown by affected communities as they shared food and water with one another.
The coverage was comprehensive — moving from reporting and assessment of casualty and loss of property to relief, recovery and rehabilitation, including a review of geophysical issues in the area.
Online platforms of news organizations and the late night newscasts of Saksi and Aksyon Tonite were the first to report the incident. Reports came in as breaking news minutes immediately after the disaster happened. Even in the late hour, the reports took care to identify the exact location of the tragedy with maps and graphics from Phivolcs.
Reports on the quake led the rundown of regular news programs the following day. Print carried reports on the Surigao disaster two days later.
Media reports included interviews from Phivolcs, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), drawing on expert views about recovery and rehabilitation issues.
TV news invested resources in extended reports featuring local officials and the communities. These could be greatly improved by avoiding repeated use of the same footage.
Rappler released a video explaining the strength of the earthquake. Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum discussed the science behind the recent quake and how affected communities should adapt with the aftermath, the danger of aftershocks and how to deal with the challenge of rebuilding on areas with faultlines.
With the video, Rappler published the Phivolcs primer that answers the following questions:
- What is happening in Surigao del Norte?
- Why do earthquakes occur in Surigao del Norte?
- Can these present earthquakes indicate volcanic activity?
- What can we expect from the current earthquake activity?
- Aside from strong ground shaking, what other seismic hazards are life-threatening?
- What should be done by the affected communities?
- What is the role of Phivolcs?
Reports also featured the predominant fear of a tsunami threat among communities living in coastal areas. Since Phivolcs did not issue a tsunami warning, GMA News Online had Solidum to explain that tsunamis happen when a fault moves vertically, upward or downward, pushing the water up. The movement of the Surigao earthquake, however, was horizontal or lateral.
Public Works Examined
The media raised concerns about roads, bridges and runways damaged by the earthquake. DPWH and NDRRMC engineers began to assess the damage and estimated time and cost requirements for the rehabilitation of these facilities.
The impact of such a disaster could have been more tragic in densely populated areas with more infrastructure, such as Metro Manila or Cebu City.
Some cities in Metro Manila and in other parts of the country are now starting to assess the infrastructure in the urban area and other public works. The media reported that DPWH urged to retrofit government offices in Quezon City. Regional DPWH also did the same. Retrofitting is adding new technology and features in older systems to improve its structural quality.
ALSO READ: The United Nations University World Risk Review 2016: http://collections.unu.edu/eserv/UNU:5763/WorldRiskReport2016_small.pdf