Earthquakes in the Philippines are common. Most of them go unnoticed by humans, only a machine can pick them up. There are probably hundreds of earthquakes in the Philippines each year. I searched for the number of quakes in the Philippines per year but didn’t find that number. I did quite a bit of search as I’m sure the number is out there but I failed to find it. I have seven browser windows still open about earthquakes in the Philippines. I was surprised how many earthquakes do occur in the Philippines.

Earthquakes in the Philippines Near Tacloban

Last week, one of Jessie’s friends sent her a text message telling her they had had several earthquakes in Tacloban. That is the city in which Jessie grew up and lived until four years ago. She said they were bigger than normal and one was rather large. So I did a search for earthquakes in Tacloban. I was surprised to find so many earthquakes near her home over the past four months. There have been several earthquakes off the coast of Leyte and Samar provinces with a magnitude near or over 5.0. This is shown in the following graphic.

Earthquakes in The Philippines Near Tacloban

Some of these are in Mindanao which isn’t really close to Tacloban in my mind.  Still, there have been several near Tacloban in the last couple of weeks. Several measuring in at a magnitude greater than 5. After seeing this, I thought they would probably have even more in Mindanao. So I searched for that but found that the area around Tacloban is probably the most often hit by these smallish sized earthquakes. A 5.0 quake is not considered small. They are classified as moderate and damaging. An earthquake that comes in a 6 to 6.9 is considered destructive.

The Pacific Ring of Fire

Most of us have heard of the Pacific Ring of Fire at this point.  This is where the most earthquakes and active volcanoes on the earth will be found. Plates of rock meet along the edges of this area. They slip and slide atop of mantle deep within the earth. This movement sometimes causes earthquakes that can be felt by humans. The Philippines sits right in the middle of the boarder of the Pacific Ring of Fire. That’s the worst place to be as far as earth quakes go.

Pacific Ring of Fire Borders The Philippines

The Philippines is also home to several active volcanoes. The second largest quake of the 20th century occurred in the Philippines. It was a truly massive event. Some places within the Philippines were covered in 600 feet of ash. I learned that from one of the documentary channels. Either Discovery Channel or National Geographic. Many lives were lost but there had been weeks of warnings from an American scientist working at the military base in Luzon. Those warning saved a large number of people. As a side note, that scientist returned to live in the Philippines after he retired.

Are Earthquakes in the Philippines Life Threatening?

Yes, earthquakes in the Philippines are life threatening and have taken lives in the past. I don’t think there have been any recorded deaths from earthquakes in the four  years that I have been living here.  There have been no large quakes during that time. A friend of mine once told me that he was in a big one in General Santos and he thought he was going to die. I believe that quake registered near a 7.

It is probably just a matter of time before the Philippines sees a major quake that has the potential to kills hundreds or even thousands of people. That depends on where it hits. From what I can tell, Samar,  Leyte, Mindanao and Luzon are the areas most likely to be hit by an earthquake. Luzon is where Manila is located and there is a fault like just off the coast. There have been significant earthquakes in Manila since I have lived here. An earthquake in Manila will get more press coverage because it is a media center and over 10 million people live in and near Manila. If a major earthquake hits the Manila area, the potential for loss of life could be massive.

Cebu sees fewer quakes but we get more here than I thought. Since I’ve been living here we’ve only had two minor quakes. They both registered near 3. I must say, a quake even at that size is a scary thing if you are not use to them. For a couple of months after they hit, I was a bit jumpy. The reason I knew this was that every time a truck large enough to shake the ground pass down the street I took notice of it. I didn’t do that before the quakes.  I don’t do it any more. I’m not alone in this. A Filipino that lives near Bogo left a comment on this website saying he was traumatized by the quakes and that he was reacting in the same way. The plate boundaries of the Philippines are shown below:

Earthquake Zone In The Philippines

Picture Credit

A quake of 6 or more must be terrifying. I can see why my friend thought he would die in that large one. Even these small ones lasted long enough for me to get out the door before it was over. It was actually an aftershock. The initial quake was sudden and over before I knew what it was.  Once outside, I could see the buildings swaying back and forth. A neighbor was running between two buildings with a child in his arms and his hand over his head. Terror all over his face. For me, the fear was “how much worse will it get.” It was soon over though. There was no obvious damage but we did notice cracks in a nearby home water tower afterwards.

From what I saw on the maps, it does look like Cebu gets a smaller number of quakes than most of the Philippines. Perhaps another reason to live in Cebu. However, Cebu could be hit by a large quake too. I can’t promise you that it will not be.

Just to see if the quakes in the Philippines that I saw on the map happened all over the world, I looked for Memphis. Nope, they don’t have as many all over the world. There was only one in the Memphis area. Memphis is predicted to have a major earthquake at some point too. If you’d like to have a look at these maps, visit the site at this link. You can type in a city name. The city will return a list of cities with that name and you can click on one to see the earthquakes in this region.

Also during my research, I did find that the Philippines is one of the most earthquake prone countries in the world. Do I think that the potential for earthquakes in the Philippines should keep you away? No, not at all, after all I am still here. My risk of being run over by a bus are probably much more likely than being killed in an Earthquake. However, one should be aware of earthquakes in the Philippines.

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Filed under: Living In The Philippines

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