2008: Phivolcs saw it coming
The businessman was hearing news of the 7.2-intensity earthquake for the first time. “Now it’s a lindol,” he commented wryly as his fingers worked to break the thick crust of the bread.
Most businessmen are superstitious, and the tougher they come, the more superstitious they get. But earthquakes are a force of nature, not a whim of belief/disbelief. Giving my neighbor the benefit of the doubt, I guessed he was referring to the chain of disasters that we’ve had to bear as one nation, one people, all in one season of tears and tragedies: typhoons, monsoons, floods, landslides in Luzon; fighting, destruction, devastation in Zamboanga, followed by floods; and now a killer earthquake hitting the Visayas, reaching all the way to Mindanao, though at a lower intensity.
Looking back, when Phivolcs seismologists conducted a survey in 2008 to assess the Bohol fault, what they saw and learned was enough to raise the alarm and warn the province of an impending earthquake of intensity 7-8. Spot on! What they could not determine was when it would hit, as no science is available as yet to predict an earthquake’s timeline.
But thanks to our Muslim friends and their Eid’l Adha marking the sacrifice of Abraham (who is also a revered figure in the Old Testament of Christians), the Oct. 15 holiday closed classrooms and offices in Cebu and Bohol, keeping thousands of children at home and thousands of adults away from their places of work. We were also blessed, in that it happened in daylight, when everyone was wide awake, and that it was not raining; otherwise our miseries would have been compounded after that five-minute sweep of terror.
The 13th year of the 21st century has not been very kind to many of us; still, things could have been much worse in this latest incident of nature’s upheaval. According to Renato Solidum, Phivolcs director, the earthquake was land-based, so it could not have triggered a tsunami, and its depth was relatively shallow at 33 km below the earth.
I’m not sure if my neighbor the businessman is an agnostic, but I’ll be asking him which of his many associates are in the habit of converting from atheists to instant believers during the first few seconds of a major tremor.