Living in-between two volcanoes – Earthquake in Philippines
Back in 2018, when we were thinking about moving to Philippines, we were well aware that it is quite a dangerous place to live in. Not because of crime or terrorism but because of natural disasters that happen on a regular basis. Everything from volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, through to typhoons and floods.
The main reason why all these natural disasters happen in Philippines is due to its geological location. You see, Philippines is located in the so-called “Ring of Fire“, which means that there is a lot of seismic activity in Philippines.
When we mentioned to our family and friends that we are thinking about moving to Philippines for a year or so, most of them told us that we are crazy. Despite that, a month after we got the idea to move to Philippines, we landed in Luzon. Luzon is the main island of the Philippines and it contains most of Philippines active volcanoes. Out of Luzon’s 28 volcanoes, 5 are considered very active.
We have never mentioned to our family that the city we live in sits in between 2 volcanoes – Mt Pinatubo (24.24 km flight distance) West from us and Mt Arayat (18.67 km flight distance ) East from us. Pinatubo, which is one of the most active ones, last erupted on 15th of June 1991. It was the second-largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century. Long story short it’s a ticking time bomb.
That said, up until the 22nd of April, we had only felt 2 small earthquakes, experienced flooding twice and received 2 typhoon warning while in the Philippines. We had also conquered one of the many volcano’s – Mt Arayat, and were thinking about hiking up to Mt Pinatubo crater lake.
The calm before the storm
Lets now jump to the Easter Monday Earthquake in the Philippines. What did we do on the day of the earthquake, how far were we from the epicenter and how did it affect us and the surrounding areas?
It was Easter Monday afternoon in the Philippines. The weather was warm and sunny with a light breeze. Simon was being a bit moody so we kept our distance. I was on the rooftop pool of the condominium we used to live in and Simon was having an afternoon nap.
Beside of it being Easter Monday it was also my friends birthday. So, around 4 PM when it’s lunch time in Estonia I gave her a call and wish her happy birthday.
When she picked up her phone, she was in the middle of setting up a birthday lunch for her colleagues. Although she was a bit busy, we still had a lovely conversation and she was happy to hear from me.
After the call I was in between swimming and sunbathing a bit longer or going back to the apartment. As it was nearly 5 in the afternoon I decided to go back to the apartment.
Simon was already awake, readying a book in the bedroom. I decided to have a quick shower first and then try to talk to him.
S%8#t got real very quickly
About 5 minutes later, at 17:11 when I was in the middle of washing my hair, I felt the first shake. At first, I did not think much of it. We have both experienced a lot of earthquakes in the past in New Zealand as well as in the Philippines. That said, all of them have only lasted few seconds and been quite small, up to 4.1 magnitude.
This time the shaking did not stop after few seconds. Instead it got stronger and stronger. Up to a point where I could actually not just feel but see the room moving. It was horrifying and it became difficult to keep my balance.
About 5 seconds into the shaking I started smelling and seeing concrete dust in the air. I was afraid that the glass wall of the shower might shatter so I decided to jump out from the shower.
By then, Simon opened then bathroom door, shouting, ‘Baby we have to leave, we have to go now!” While he was screaming, I noticed that the wall behind him was starting to form cracks.
I am not going to die naked
As Simon was pulling me towards the exit while saying things like, “Ou s%#t the building is going to collapse!” “The rooftop pool might come down on us!” “Fuck, fuck, fuck, let’s go, lets go.” I started thinking that this is it, we are going to be smothered by the concrete.
I stopped him in front of the wardroom and said:” I need to put something on as I am not going to die naked 🤣 🤣 🤣 ” I then grabbed some shorts and a T-shirt and tried putting them on while running out.
When we reached the living room, we saw that objects like picture frames and water dispenser had already fallen over. Furniture was moving, cupboard doors swinging and wine glasses breaking.
When we got to the stairs, we saw people running and screaming, “Go-Go-Go!” You could see from everyone’s faces how terrified they were.
What just happened
When we got outside, we saw that the water from the rooftop pool was dripping over the edge of the building and the overall foundation of the condominium had cracks all over it. Every person who had got outside by then were totally shaken by what had happened.
While sitting outside everyone were sharing their stories about what they were doing when the earthquake hit. Our Swedish friends told us that on the time of the earthquake they were in the rooftop pool. They said that it was extremely difficult to get out from the pool as the earthquake was causing up to 1-meter high waves. (Thank f%# that I had earlier decided to go home instead of soaking in the pool.)
How bad was the damage – Earthquake in the Philippines
About 3 hours after the earthquake, when the engineer of the building had made sure that the main foundation hasn’t suffered (the condominium where we lived was built to withstand earthquakes), we were finally allowed to go back in.
Walking up the stairs and seeing how much damage the quake caused to the walls of a brand-new building (finished in 2019) we wondered what kind of damage waits us in our apartment. And more importantly how has it affected the rest of Pampanga (later on we found out that Pampanga was hit hardest)
When we reached our floor, we saw that the walls, outside of our apartment were full of cracks. The walls inside of our unit looked no better. Our apartment had cracks in every single wall, the bathroom tiles were sticking out from the wall and the kitchen floor was covered with water.
What about the aftershocks
That night we did not sleep well, nor did we sleep well the next couple of weeks. You see after an earthquake like this, readjustments in the earth will cause more earthquakes (aftershocks). These aftershocks can occur intermittently for weeks or even months. (By 23th of April, 421 aftershocks were recorded)
The biggest aftershock occurred two days after the main one. It happened on the 24th of April at 2:02 am and it was 4,5 mag. with the depth of only 200 m. It woke up most of the people in our condominium. Some so scared that they even checked out from their condominiums.
Casualties and facts about the Easter Monday Earthquake in the Philippines
The Easter Monday earthquake that struck the Philippines on the 22nd of April, 2019, injured 256 people and took a life from at least 18 people (a lot of Aeta people live in the slopes on Mt Pinatubo, so it is impossible to know the exact number).
According to the Philippines Seismological Observation Division it was a 6,1-magnitude earthquake. The epicenter of the quake was in 18 km east of Castillejos (30,25 km by air flight from our condominium). The depth of the earthquake was 10 km which means that it was a very shallow quake. (Shallow quakes generally tend to be more damaging than deeper quakes.)
The shaking lasted 27 seconds. It might seem like a short time, but believe me, if you are experiencing an earthquake as strong as this one, 27 sec feels like forever. (Generally, earthquakes only last seconds. Strong ground shaking during a moderate to large earthquake typically lasts about 10 to 30 seconds.)
It was one of the scariest experiences we have ever lived through. It is crazy to think that the local people in here encounter earthquakes like this every year.
Watch some of the Easter Monday earthquake CCTV footage’s.