Shortly after the news of the Japanese quake hit the ‘net I started to receive concerned e-mails from people wondering if I was OK and asking why I hadn’t posted here or on Facebook to say things were fine. It was a little strange because nobody in Manila seems even faintly worried about the quake or the possible after effects. Most locals I talked to weren’t aware of the tsunami warning, or if they were they weren’t worried.

Which is fair enough, Manila was on the wrong (right?) side of the country for this one and I hear that most of the coastal areas in the danger zone were successfully evacuated. And in the end the tsunami and pretty much worn itself out by the time it hit here.

But on Monday a 5.4 magnitude quake did hit the Philippines around 50 miles out of Manila. (Looking for the details I noticed there was another one on Sunday).

There was some shaking but it wasn’t too bad, people did the normal stand-up and wonder if they should leave the building routine. There was some nervous laughter, but no-one bolted for the door. There seemed to be a little more panic on Twitter but it subsided when it became clear that this wasn’t going to turn out to be a ‘big one’.

The earthquake that hit Japan would have been around 4000 times stronger. Which is pretty scary, I can’t really imagine what that would be like. Gazing out my window at Manila I don’t want to imagine the destruction that it might cause. Even buildings that are supposed to be earthquake proof probably wouldn’t fare well in a 9.0 — and lots of the smaller buildings and shanty towns are all self built from whatever people could find.

It’s fairly clear to most people that the Philippines isn’t prepared for the a big quake, the government is working on it but I’ll not hold my breath. There’s a lot of confusion about exactly what to do, annoyingly the instructions hastily posted in my apartment building refer to the dubious Triangle of Life rather than using the more sensible advice from FEMA. Compared to Tokyo, which has defined safe gathering points and regular earthquake drills, it’s all a bit depressing.

Of course there’s nothing much I can do, it’s practically impossible to predict quakes and I knew about the Philippines and the Pacific Ring of Fire before I moved here, although I wasn’t aware that the Marikina fault line runs less than 500m from my building …

So I’ll try and do what I can and hope for the best …

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