Philippine Disasters

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World's 4th Most Accident-Prone Country
According to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Philippines was the fourth most accident prone country in the world. The two institutions arrived at this conclusion after finding out that some 5,809,986 Filipinos were killed or injured as a result of disasters or man-made calamities over a ten-year period (1992-2001). 

If not for its smaller population, the Philippines could have been the world's second most accident-prone country after Iran. Because of its large population, China topped the accident list, with 97,783,301 of its citizens affected by accidents during the ten-year period. It was followed by India, which reported 46,060,125 victims during the period. Both China and India have a population of over 1 billion people. Iran was third in the list, with 6,416,570 victims. Behind the Philippines were Ethiopia, with 3,334,266 victims; and Pakistan, 2,732,032 victims. The global report by International Red Cross said 535,416 people were killed in natural disasters and 86,947 others in industrial, transport and other "technological disasters" worldwide from 1992 to 2001.

According to the Philippine Red Cross, 31,835 Filipinos were killed and 94,369,462 others were affected by natural disasters and calamities in a span of 20 years. "The Philippines was a natural laboratory for floods, typhoons, monsoon rains, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and landslides," Philippine National Red Cross governor Dante Liban said. (Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer)

313 Disaster Incidents in 2002
Data from the Disaster Response Operations Monitoring and Information Center (DROMIC) showed that there were 313 disaster incidents in the country in 2002, up from only 199 incidents in 2001. In particular, there were 120 fire incidents that affected 15,430 households in 2002, 63 deportation or relocation incidents, 22 armed conflicts that distressed 8,891 families, 22 bombing incidents or explosions, 22 flashfloods that affected 234,414 households, and 7 destructive typhoons that distressed 568,345 families. Other types of disasters that happened in 2002 were vehicular accidents, sea mishap, tornado, massacre, plane crash, and earthquakes.

Worst Disaster in History
On July 12, 2000, the Philippines witnessed one of the world's most horrifying images of social tragedy in history. Nearly 500 garbage scavengers who were living literally at the Payatas dumpsite in Quezon City were buried alive under tons of garbage when a 50-foot garbage mountain collapsed on their makeshift houses at the height of torrential rains.  It was a tragic commentary on poverty in the Philippines, yet the lesson remains to be learned to this day. 

Worst Sea Accidents
In December 1987, some 4,341 people died when Dona Paz, an inter-island passenger ferry owned by Sulpicio Lines collided with an oil tanker off Mindoro Island. Sadly it was not to be the last sea tragedy in the Philippines, an archipelago of 7,107 islands.  In 1988, around 250 people died when Dona Marilyn, another passenger ferry owned by Sulpicio Lines, sank. On April 11, 2002, at least 30 people were killed when MV Maria Carmella, which was bound from the island-province of Masbate for Lucena City in Quezon province, caught fire. 

Among the most frequently mentioned causes of the sea accidents were overloading of the ship, ageing facilities, badly trained crewmembers, and poor compliance by the vessels with safety precautions and measures. While the Philippines has over 7,100 islands and 10,000 ships or boats, the Philippine Coastguard has only 4,000 men.

Worst Air Accidents
On April 19, 2000, some 131 people were killed when a commercial airplane from Manila crashed in Samal Island, Davao del Norte province (southern Mindanao). All the passengers and crew, including four infants, of Air Philippines Boeing 737-200 (Flight 541 from Manila) died in what is now considered the worst air tragedy in the Philippines.

A local commercial flight bound for northern Luzon crashed into Manila Bay seven minutes after takeoff in the morning of November 11, 2002, leaving 19 people including six foreign tourists dead. Ten people survived.

The ill-fated airplane – an ageing Fokker 27 – was bound from Manila for Laoag City in northern Luzon, with 29 passengers and crewmembers on board, when it encountered an engine trouble and crashed one kilometer off the Manila Bay shoreline in Paranaque City. The dead victims include five Australian tourists and a British national. Among the 10 survivors was an Australian tourist. The two Filipino captains of the airplane also survived, along with a flight stewardess and a plane mechanic.

On July 2, 2000, an Air Force Nomad plane crashed somewhere in Sulu Sea, killing its 13 crewmembers and passengers, including the late Palawan Governor Salvador Socrates and Western Command chief Maj. Gen. Santiago Madrid.

On March 17, 1957, President Ramon Magsaysay died in an airplane crash in Mount Manunggal, Cebu province.

Worst Terrorist Attacks
No one thought that banditry still exists in the modern era. In April 1995, the Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf (Bearers of the Sword) group raided the Christian town of Ipil in Zamboanga del Norte province and burned all its houses and establishments. The group also shot dead at least 54 residents of the town. The worst terrorist attack in Metro Manila took place on December 30, 2000, which was a holiday (Rizal Day). A series of bombings rocked the metropolis on that day. The worst explosion happened inside a train of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) in Manila where 22 passengers were killed and hundreds more were wounded.

Before this, an explosion nearly killed Philippine Ambassador Leonides Caday in Jakarta, Indonesia on August 1, 2000. Police claimed that an Indonesian national in their custody has admitted responsibility for the bombings in Manila and Jakarta. In March, 2002, a group which identified itself as the Indigenous Federal State Army planted at least 10 hoax bombs around Metro Manila purportedly to demand the establishment of separate governments for Muslim and indigenous people. Investigators, however, denied that such a group exists and blamed the bomb scare to existing rebel groups.

On April 21, 2002, 15 innocent civilians were killed while 60 others were injured when a bomb exploded outside a shopping mall in General Santos City (southern Mindanao). The Abu Sayyaf quickly claimed responsibility over the bombing, although the military was convinced that a larger Muslim rebel group could be involved.  On October 19, a bomb exploded aboard a public bus, killing three passengers and wounding 19 others in Balintawak, Quezon City. A fragmentation grenade also exploded in Makati City but injured no one on October 17.

On October 17, two of the seven bombs planted around Zamboanga City (western Mindanao) exploded, leaving seven people dead and 144 others injured. On October 10, a bomb, which was allegedly planted by an extortion group, exploded inside a bus terminal in Kidapawan City (central Mindanao), leaving 8 people dead and 25 others injured. On the night of October 2, a bomb, allegedly planted by Muslim extremist Abu Sayyaf group, exploded in front of a karaoke bar in Zamboanga City (western Mindanao), killing an American soldier and two Filipinos and wounding 19 others, including another American soldier.  

September 11 Attacks
What is considered as the world's terrorist attack was the September 11 airplane assault on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York in 2001. About 3,000 people were believed killed in the incident that brought all the floors of the two buildings to the ground.  Reports said there were at least 500 Filipinos or Filipino-Americans working at the World Trade Center. There were 80,000 Filipinos living in New York City and another 50,000 in Washington D.C.

Worst Fires
On March 18, 1996 a fire at Ozone disco along Timog Avenue in Quezon City left 150 people dead and 90 others seriously injured. Around 350 young Filipinos were inside the bar when the fire struck. It was considered the worst nightclub fire since a blaze killed 164 people in Southgate, Kentucky in 1977.  On August 18, 2001, a fire gutted Manor Hotel in Quezon City, killing 75 guests and wounding 52 others. The victims, mostly local members of the Dawn Flowers Ministry, a Texas-based Christian evangelical group, were asleep when the fire struck. They were trapped inside their rooms because the hotel's fire exit was blocked.

Worst Bus Accident
On November 24, 33 people died while six others were seriously injured when a passenger bus plunged into a 30-foot ravine in Tagkawayan, Quezon province (southern Luzon). The ill-fated Falcon Liner bus was bound for Masbate province (Bicol region) when its driver reportedly lost control of the wheel while negotiating a downhill portion of the Quirino Highway. Most of the passengers were asleep when the accident happened at 12:30 a.m. On November 26, a Victory Liner bus plunged into a 109-foot ravine in Benguet province, killing two of its passengers.

Worst Volcanic Eruptions
In June, 1991, Mount Pinatubo in Zambales province had the century's second largest volcanic eruption, as it unleashed some 15 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the earth's atmosphere that resulted in slight cooling of the earth's temperature. Thousands of people were believed killed as a result of the eruption and the subsequent lahar flow, which buried several villages in the provinces of Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales. The eruption also forced American troops out of their bases in Clark, Pampanga and Subic, Zambales. What is considered as the century's strongest eruption is the eruption of Novarupta in Alaska, which released 9 cubic miles of magma towards the earth's surface in June, 1912.

Worst Typhoons and Flashfloods
As a typhoon codenamed Thelma was passing the Philippines on November 5, 1991, a flashflood hit Ormoc City in Leyte province, killing at least 3,000 people and destroying the homes of 50,000 others.  In September 1984, a typhoon codenamed Ike killed 1,300 persons while in 1995 typhoon Angela killed 700 people. On August 3, 1999, heavy torrential rains caused a landslide that killed 58 people and buried over 100 houses at Cherry Hills Subsivision in Antipolo City. On November 9, 2001, a typhoon locally named "Nanang" caused a flashflood that buried 350 residents of Mahinog in the island-province of Camiguin. The highest death toll during a weather disturbance was reported in Bangladesh when a strong cyclone (typhoon) killed nearly 300,000 people in November 1970.

Worst Earthquakes
On July 16, 1990, an earthquake that registered 7.7 on the Richter scale killed 1,700 people, injured 3,000 individuals and displaced 148,000 more in Luzon. Among the cities that sustained the worst damages were Baguio, Dagupan and Cabanatuan.  On August 17, 1976, an earthquake caused a tidal wave or tsunami that killed about 8,000 people in Mindanao, according to the Information Please Almanac. On August 2, 1968, an earthquake caused the collapse of Ruby Tower buildings, leaving hundreds of people trapped underneath the rubble. What is considered as the most damaging earthquake in the 20th Century took place in Tianjin, China where 250,000 people were believed killed. The strongest earthquake, which registered 9.5 on the Richter scale, was reported in Chile on May 22, 1960.

Worst Festival Tragedy
On July 2, 1993, a pagoda carrying hundreds of Catholic devotees during the annual pagoda festival in Bocaue, Bulacan sank into the muddy Bocaue River. About 279 people, including children, drowned in the incident. One victim, Sajid Bulig, died a hero after saving four children out of the river.

Coastal Areas Sinking
According to the University of the Philippines' National Institute of Geological Sciences, low coastal areas at the Manila Bay, such as Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela and several towns in Bulacan, Pampanga and Bataan have sunk one meter in the past 30 years or ten times than the rate of the global sea level rise in the last century.

In their paper "Flooding in Pampanga, Bataan, Bulacan and Camanava: Causes, Trends and Possible Solutions", geologists blamed the fast rise of water level at the Manila Bay to too much extraction of groundwater by a growing population and economic activities. There are about 23 million people living around the Manila Bay, who experience flood during the rainy season.

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