Phivolcs urges youth: Prepare for earthquakes, tsunamis

world tsunami awareness commemoration
UNDERSTANDING HAZARDS. To commemorate World Tsunami Awareness Day, scientists of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology orient students on earthquakes and tsunamis. Photo by Gwen de la Cruz/

Earthquake experts from Phivolcs teach high school students what to do in case disaster strikes

MANILA, Philippines (Nov. 5, 2016) — The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) oriented high school students from Metro Manila schools on how to prepare for earthquakes and tsunamis on Friday, November 4, in observance of World Tsunami Awareness Day. 

Philvolcs invited around 90 high school students from 6 schools in Metro Manila that are near the Manila Trench, one of the two major fault lines near the national capital.

The event was held a day ahead of World Tsunami Awareness Day, which is marked on November 5. Phivolcs said November 5 was chosen as the date of the event in honor of a true story in Japan on disaster preparedness.

“November 5 was chosen in honor of a true story from Japan: Inamura-no-hi, which means the ‘burning of the rice sheaves.’ During an 1854 earthquake, a farmer saw the tide receding, as sign of looming tsunami and he set fire to his harvested rice to warn villagers, who fled to high ground,” Phivolcs explained.

Importance of awareness

Earthquake experts from Phivolcs discussed the different characteristics of an earthquake and tsunami, and taught the students how to prepare and what to do in case an actual earthquake strikes and generates a tsunami. The students also toured the agency’s exhibit, where other geological hazards were explained.

high school students tour phivolcs' geological hazards exhibit
GEOLOGICAL HAZARDS. High school students tour Phivolcs’ geological hazards exhibit on November 4, 2016. Photo by Gwen de la Cruz/

According to Mylene Villegas of Phivolcs’ Geologic Disaster Awareness and Preparedness Division, major earthquakes that cause tsunamis are not as frequent as other natural disasters like typhoons. The major tsunamis in the country happened in the 1800s to 1900s.

“We recognize the importance of schools, especially the teachers and the children because they are the next generation. In our lifetime, that’s like how many major events….When it happens, it really has a big impact. So for us really, it’s important to make sure that we are always prepared, like we don’t forget,” Villegas explained.

The Philippines is located along the Pacific Ocean Ring of Fire, where seismic activities such as earthquakes occur on a daily basis. The Philippines is vulnerable to tsunamis as it is an archipelago.

“All coastal areas in the Philippines are tsunami-prone,” said Phivolcs Science Research Specialist Jeffrey Perez.

One of the major tsunamis that hit the country was in Mindoro on November 15, 1994, when a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck and triggered waves as high as 8 meters. The incident killed 41 people and destroyed 1,530 houses.

  by Gwen dela Cruz |