Architect paints grim picture of impending quake

(CNN Philippines) — What would happen if a 7.2-magnitude quake were to hit Metro Manila?

Prominent architect and urban planner Felino Palafox Jr. gave a grisly picture:

Metro Manila would be divided into four segments — north and south of the Pasig River and east and west of the fault line.

Bridges would collapse and thousands of kilometers of road would break down.

Power and water outage could be expected. And there would be no telecommunications.

Some 50,000 people would get killed — 20,000 of which would be from the resulting fires after the quake.

And who would suffer the most?

The poorest of the poor, who live in crowded informal settlements.

“We are not ready,” Palafox told CNN Philippines anchor Amelyn Veloso during a live interview aired over Headline News on Tuesday (May 26).

The fault line, the architect said, has been identified 40 years ago when he was the team leader for the World Bank-funded Metroplan.

Palafox said he had been making recommendations to the government to address the hazards beforehand as it would be 90% cheaper.

"It's nine times more expensive to rehab after the disaster," he said.

In his 145-point urban planning, architecture, and engineering recommendation, Palafox enumerated 18 hazards — of which 10 are man-made.

The document, copies of which were sent to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2010 and President Benigno Aquino III in 2010 and 2013, listed long-term targets, which are to be accomplished in 10 to 20 years.

Among the targets were the development of disaster-proof living zones, disaster prevention and awareness, and reforestation plans.

The designation of open spaces as evacuation areas was also recommended.

Palafox said an evacuation area should be about 10 hectares, which would include a clinic, a water and food station, emergency shelters, a telecommunications command center, a helipad, and maybe a place for worship and recreation.

Structural audit

Citing a Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) report, Palafox said 2% of tall buildings, which are 30 stories and above, will collapse at a magnitude 7.2 earthquake compared to the 20% o 30% of low-rise buildings.

"People are asking me why," he said.

The architect explained that tall buildings, particularly those 30 stories or higher, use professionals and the proper studies in construction.

Related: Sturdier structures can lessen quake casualties – Phivolcs

“Unfortunately the low-rise buildings — sometimes they don't hire professionals anymore.”

Still, the architect recommended that all building be subjected to structural audits, especially if it they were built more than 25 years ago.

The architect explained the need for a structure to be audited and retrofitted by comparing to a paperclip.

“If you bend it once, it doesn't break. But if you bend it several times, it will break. So, if a building has been through many earthquakes eventually it will give up."

Palafox said owners who build structures on top of fault lines should be given a noncompliance certificate by city hall. They should not be insurable anymore, he added.

Related: Disaster response in place for Pasig City's Valle Verde 5

“The developments in Metro Manila is an urban laboratory of how not to do it.”

He recommended that structures be designed to withstand an 8.0-magnitude quake or higher.

Unsafe structures must be demolished.

He also expressed support over the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s plan to conduct a metrowide earthquake drill.

Related: MMDA wants no-work day for proposed metrowide quake drill

“It's long overdue. Maybe even street by street, let's say in your barangay or your community. Identify the professionals who will be helpful — the nurses, the doctors, the engineers, the architects. It's doable. It's been done in Japan and elsewhere in the world.”

View the document below for the full list of architect Palafox's recommendations.

[Editor's note: CNN Philippines will have a special coverage of the Metro Manila shake drill on July 30, 2015 starting at 10:30 a.m. CNN Philippines is available on free tv: Manila RPN – TV 9;  Destiny Ch.14; Cablelink Ch.14; Cignal Ch.10; Sky Cable (Manila) Ch.14; and via livestream on]