City of Manila

Of Manila Earthquakes and Ruby Tower

This past week, different parts of the country were hit with multiple earthquakes of varying magnitudes. Of particular relevance to Metro Manila was the 6.1 magnitude earthquake which hit last Monday, April 22.

Image courtesy of Forbes

While its epicenter was detected in the Pampanga area, Metro Manila felt the tremors nonetheless, causing a suspension of mass transit operations and suspension of work and classes for the night until the next day for many establishments as they assessed of the damage, if any, the earthquake caused. Thankfully there were none of significance.

Employees gathering at an open area after the earthquake (Photo by Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images)

While Metro Manila is no stranger to earthquakes, this recent earthquake is one of those that struck a greater sense of fear among the denizens, considering the strength of the movement it brought. If this Roamer is not mistaken, the last time Metro Manila felt such a strong earthquake was on July 16, 1990, which toppled down structures in Northern Luzon.

And even the 1990 earthquake pales in comparison to what Manila experienced in the past. Records state of multiple powerful earthquakes that hit the city in the 16th and 17th centuries, 1863, and 1880, which caused significant damage to many of the city’s structures. A few of those earthquakes would bring about constant rebuilding of the Manila Cathedral and Santo Domingo Church and one caused San Agustin Church to lose one of its belfry towers.

Manila after the 1863 earthquake (image via FineArtAmerica)

As Manila grew by the turn of the century, it was fortunate to have experienced none of those destructive earthquakes of the past. There was however, one particular earthquake that left a mark in the city. an earthquake that happened on August 2, 1968.

This 1968 earthquake’s epicenter was actually recorded far up northeast in Casiguran, Aurora but registered a 7.3 in magnitude. In Manila, the earthquake damaged a number of structures, especially those along the Pasig River. Significant damage was also noted in other buildings such as the Aloha Theater, Philippine Bar Association Building, and the Liwayway Building, among others.

But perhaps the most significant casualty caused by the earthquake was the Ruby Tower, a 6-storey building in Santa Cruz (not Binondo as others wrote), Manila. It did not help that the building itself was built of cheap, non-earthquake proof materials. So when the earthquake hit, most of the building collapsed to the ground, leaving only the first 2 floors mostly intact. Hundreds died as the result of the collapse, forming the bulk of the recorded fatalities of the 1968 earthquake in itself.

From most accounts, the 1968 earthquake and the Ruby Tower tragedy made the denizens of Manila become more aware of the destructive power of earthquakes, as the city has not felt quite a strong earthquake since the late 19th century at least. The issue of structures not adhering to the Building Code came into the limelight as a result and there were efforts made to ensure that such buildings adhere to the Code, which would help them become more resistant to earthquakes.

Ruby Tower was eventually rebuilt but with only the two floors rebuilt, with a memorial hall dedicated to the victims of the 1968 tragedy

That does not discount that there are still some buildings are there that may not be up to the earthquake-proof standards that we have in place. Which is why it is very important to be constantly on the lookout for such structures so we can avoid such great loss of life that could have at least been lesser if the standards were strictly in place.

Acknowledgements as well to Wikipedia and PHIVOLCS


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