Philippine President orders quake investigation

Before and after: Loay Church in Bohol.
 
By Denis McClean

GENEVA, 18 October 2013 - Philippine President Benigno Aquino has ordered an investigation into possible violations of the building code following Tuesday's 7.2 magnitude earthquake in the Visayas region which has resulted in at least 171 deaths and widespread damage and destruction to critical infrastructure in Cebu, Bohol and Siquijor provinces.

On a two-day state visit to the Republic of Korea, President Aquino is reported to have also directed the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Science and Technology to continue development of a comprehensive plan to make high-risk buildings and other structures more resilient to earthquakes.

Speaking to the Philippine media in a news briefing, the President voiced criticism of shortcomings he had personally observed during a visit to the affected areas in Cebu and Bohol on Wednesday.

He said that the government would also be coordinating with the private sector to help with the audit of buildings. The Philippines will also seek the help of Japanese construction experts in retrofitting old government buildings.

UNISDR Champion, Senator Loren Legarda today made an impassioned plea for stronger enforcement of building regulations: "We need safe schools and hospitals and it is clear from this disaster event that we do not always have them. I recommend that we engage in a country-wide risk evaluation of all our schools and hospitals as part of the UNISDR Safe Schools and Hospitals campaign so we can take immediate action to ensure that these important community assets are fully disaster-proof.

"There is no doubt in my mind that the casualty toll would have been much greater if it were not for the fact that many schools were shut because there was a national holiday. It is alarming that at least three hospitals in Cebu suffered major damage and that in one case patient and staff were trapped inside the building.

"We all know that the most expensive hospital is the one that collapses so we must make every effort in the future to ensure that earthquake-proof building regulations are enforced."

An update issued today by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council provides a more complete view of the damage and destruction caused by the earthquake. In Bohol, some 98,000 people continue to be accommodated in evacuation centres and further 65,000 outside them. A total of 19,309 houses were damaged including 2,938 totally. A large relief effort is underway.
The United Nations General Assembly requested UNISDR to facilitate the development of a post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction The United Nations General Assembly requested UNISDR to facilitate the development of a post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction.
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