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Oct 22

The Explainer: Red October

That was a scene from “Empire of the Sun,” where the main character is separated from his family during the fall of Shanghai.

With 11 dead,  dozens wounded, hundreds more eyewitnesses or in the vicinity, the explosion at Glorietta 2 is a tragedy that has deeply shocked the nation.

Tonight, we pause to remember the victims, sift through the testimony of eyewitnesses, and also try to begin picking up the pieces.

Most of all, perhaps we can, all of us, begin to identify the lessons we can learn from this tragedy.

 

I’m Manolo Quezon. The Explainer.

 

I. What happened

 

In 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his first inaugural address, and told an America frightened by the Great Depression who their real enemy was.

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life, a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.

With FDR’s words in mind, let’s start off by pointing out that right now, there’s a lot more we don’t know about what happened at G2, than we actually do know.

Courtesy of Inquirer interactive, here is a bird’s eye view of the Glorietta complex.

http://www.inquirer.net/specialfeatures/gloriettablast/multimedia.php

 

Let’s try to orient ourselves with this image as we tackle the first thing we have to do. And that is, to piece together what other people saw.

Here is what we know:

It happened after lunch, but way before rush hour. There was an explosion; there was heavy damage; there was panic and in some places, stampedes.

And this is what we know from eyewitness accounts. These eyewitness accounts are everyhere, I spent two days compiling the ones that appeared on line. And some others, too.

 

Name Location Sight Sound Sensation Smell
Of Law & Badmintonhttp://lawandbadminton.blogspot.com/2007/10/bloody-friday-at-glorietta-mall.html

 

G2 Loud explosion Very intense shake like intensity 10 quake
Cindy4http://cindyuy.multiply.com/journal/item/6/Glorietta_2_bombing

 

G2 Ceiling almost fell; smoke; explosion in direction of Park Square and not Activity Area Loud bang Glorietta trembled like an earthquake
Welcome to My Life’s motherhttp://cherylgonzales.multiply.com/journal/item/4/Blast_at_Glorietta

 

G2 Ceiling of floor below her collapsed; orange plastic pipes fell, too Loud blast
As The World Turnshttp://mvrweb.sampasite.com/blog/Delayed-shock.htm

 

G2 Smoke filled area Did not feel blast Smoke smelled of gunpowder or firecrackers
Meet Joebakshttp://jobacs1004.multiply.com/journal/item/19/Glorietta_2_Bombing

 

G2 (restaurant) Did not hear anything Did not feel blast
Uchiyahokikohttp://uchihayukiko.livejournal.com/82547.html

 

Bo’s Café, G2 Felt like explosion was above them
My Life… Haydshttp://haydeeann24.multiply.com/journal/item/14/October_19_2007_Glorietta_2_bombing

 

G1 Some thing fell from ceiling Big Boom Felt like earthquake
Just Walk Awayhttp://fillie.multiply.com/journal/item/22/GLORIETTAI_was_there

 

Goldcrest Loud explosion; sound of breaking glass
Angeliz105http://www.sulit.com.ph/forum/viewtopic.php?p=20393#20393

 

Park Square 2, 3rd Floor near Timezone entrance Cloud of smoke seeped from G2 Loud explosion
Lost in my Headspacehttp://lostinmyheadspace.blogspot.com/2007/10/glorietta-2-bombing-take-2.html

 

G4, near Jollibee Glass wall of Jollibee shook Felt shockwave go through his chest
Gimmepeanutbutterhttp://gimmepeanutbutter.multiply.com/journal/item/17/BOOM_Goes_Glorietta.

 

Away from G2 Something that sounded like thunder
Flipflopping Around Town’s Mom Away from G2 Loud bang Felt vibration
Bryanton Post’s friend, Melissahttp://bryantonpost.blogspot.com/2007/10/current-casualties-of-glorietta-blast.html

 

Via Mare, Landmark Impact so strong, felt in Landmark, like mall took a rollercoaster ride
O-C Mumziehttp://ocmumzie.multiply.com/journal/item/5/Tragedy_at_Glorietta2_Extraordinary_lessons_from_what_should_have_been_an_ordinary_day

 

Gold’s Gym Thick clouds of smoke (pulverized cement) Sound of exploding glass second Building rocked, first
Standing on the Edgehttp://ambonsamakati.blogspot.com/2007/10/glorietta-explosion.html

 

En route to FX Terminal near Greenbelt Friend heard loud boom
Sunny Side Uphttp://marcmgeronimo.multiply.com/journal/item/36/Panic_in_Glorietta

 

Inside the mall Whole place trembled
Anonymous father, quoted in Websaytco.comhttp://www.websaytko.com/185-glorietta-incident-traumatic-experience-for-dad-and-kid.html

 

G2, 3rd floor Heard a blast Ceiling fell on him
..My Life…http://pinkprincess15.multiply.com/journal/item/46/GLORIETTA_I_WAS_THERE_I_SAW_IT

 

Outside G2 Debris flew and smashed Gerry’s Grill glass Loud explosion
Gabriel Sison (news item) Goldcrest Something exploded 10 meters away
Chad G4 Noticed crowd panic
Disney Cute Landhttp://disneycute.multiply.com/photos/album/25/Glorietta_2_Bombing

 

Park Square 2 walkway Debris falling down; smoke
Eyewitness 1, M 6750 Ayala Ave., 16th Floor No noise Building shuddered
Eyewitness 2, F Bldg. across street from GB 5 Windows rattled violently
Eyewitness 3, F GB 3 No noise Felt 2 shockwaves
Eyewitness 4, M Inside Starbuck’s G2 Saw no flame Heard an explosion Felt violent shaking Smelled smoke; delay before smoke came out

 

What do these eyewitness accounts tell us?

They seem to indicate only a few things:

1. Generally, only people close to the explosion heard it; some heard two explosions.

2. Everyone felt something like a strong earthquake; some felt two jolts.

3. No one seems to have seen flames or a fire.

4. Some described the smoke as smelling like fireworks or New Year’s. No one described smelling chemical fumes.

 

Next, besides what people recall, there’s what we’ve been able to see, particularly from pictures.

We’re going to show you these pictures, now. Try to look at them with fresh eyes, that is, look beyond the awful damage and ask yourself, what might the damage itself tell us?

And as you look at the pictures, spare a thought for what’s been lost, in lives and property, as you also listen to a song that became a popular favorite during World War II:

 

I’LL BE SEEING YOU

Sammy Fain / Irving Kahal

 

I’ll be seeing you

In all the old familiar places

That this heart of mine embraces

All day and through

In that small cafe

The park across the way

The children’s carrousel

The chestnut trees

The wishing well

 

I’ll be seeing you

In every lovely summer’s day

In everything that’s light and gay

I’ll always think of you that way

 

I’ll find in the morning sun

And when the night is new

I’ll be looking at the moon

But I’ll be seeing you

  

I’ll be seeing you

In every lovely summer’s day

In everything that’s light and gay

I’ll always think of you that way

 

I’ll find in the morning sun

And when the night is new

I’ll be looking at the moon

But I’ll be seeing you

 

What do these photographs tell us?

Let’s focus, in particular, on this dramatic front page photo from last Sunday’s Inquirer.

The photograph seems to tell us the blast was strong but also, that it was mainly directed upwards, and not outwards; and if you remember the eyewitness accounts, where only those very close to the blast heard anything, it may be that the explosion itself was muffled by something, perhaps the floor.

And the accounts of those who say they heard two explosions might suggest that after the initial explosion, the second noise was the ground floor giving way, upwards, as the pressure of the blast moved upwards.

A blast on the first floor itself might have dissipated its energy sideways, for example.

But this is just amateur conjecture from me and others. Let’s be clear that we’re not suggesting they’re facts. But they do indicate that we have to try to make sense of what took place, because when official explanations are given, we all have to reconcile the official explanation with what we’ve pieced together.

Sunday night on his blog, Dean Jorge Bocobo pointed to

http://www.gexcon.com/index.php

 

The website of a consultancy company called Gexcon, which investigates gas explosions. The company has its investigation handbook on line, and I’d like to share with you, the procedures they outline for investigating explosions.

The company emphasizes the need to thoroughly document the damage and the things that were moved, displaced, or distorted because of the explosion.

Among the things that are analyzed, according to the Explosion Handbook of Gexcon, is to analyze the trajectory, or direction, fragments flew, from the explosion.

For example, according to Gexcon, if the arrows show the direction parts of Motor Casing A, which had flown 15 meters from its original position. The direction the parts flew,tells us “that combustible gas has intruded into Motor A and that part of the explosion has been an explosion under Casing A”. According to Gexcon this told them that the “explosion has most likely been the initial explosion and damage also tells us that the probable ignition location was under the casing or near Motor A.”

Now look at the image for Motor Casing B. According to Gexcon, “Deflection of a ductile structure is another damage indicator”. In layman’s terms, bending or distortion in a bendable surface can suggest where the explosion took place. According to Gexcon, Motor Casing B was deflected.  To Gexcon this means that “the explosion load must be from the outside”.

Another thing to look at, would be pipes. Pipes, as Gexcon explained in this next illustration,, or panels that have deflected can be used to estimate the loads from the explosion.

This chart shows the activities that have to take place, often at the same time, after an explosion occurs.

Gexcon also says that damaged glass can be used to estimate  a blast wave, i.e. size of cloud and maximum pressure in an explosion area.

All these things can then be interpreted by a professional team of investigators. Gexcon says a good team usually includes an explosion expert, a structural expert and plant operation experts, in the case of industrial accidents.

This chart shows the steps investigators undertake, to come up with their findings as to the cause of a blast. Evidence of various kinds is gathered, and compared. A fragment map is prepared. Similar incidents are compared,too. Eyewitness accounts and the documentation of the damage, are surveyed.

Among other things, it may even be necessary to conduct simulations to determine which possible cause is more likely than others.

When we return, having reviewed what people went through, let’s ask ourselves, what’s next?

 

II. What to do

 

That was a scene from “9/11” the famous documentary by brother Jules and Gedeon Naudet.

I was in a stampede once. It was at a birthday party at a disco several years before the Ozone disaster. The stampede was caused by some idiots deciding to pop balloons in the ceiling with their cigarettes. A sheet of flame burst forth; people screamed, then ran; the human tide was unstoppable, unthinking, and potentially as fatal as the fire itself.

What was worse, was that there was only one exit, which could only be reached down a steep flight of stairs. People ran, and as they ran into each other, the crowd kept compressing and yet moving towards the stairs.

Eventually a friend and I had to squeeze to the side and let people sweep past us, otherwise we would have fallen down the stairs. We finally made it out, frightened and shaken.

When the explosion took place in Glorietta, panic ensued.

I’d like you to watch this video clip, recorded by this blogger:

http://lostinmyheadspace.blogspot.com/2007/10/glorietta-2-bombing-take-2.html

On his cellphone.

It’s a disturbing video to watch, and while I’m pretty sure you’ve seen it, but please watch it with fresh eyes.

 

Let me ask our scouts here, to tell us their reactions.

Guys, can you tell me what lessons we can learn from this video?

A tragedy like Glorietta explosion serves as a reminder that we have to do our best to keep calm in emergency situations.

FEMA, an agency of the US government, has a list of do’s and don’t’s in case of an explosion. Let’s review their advice.

http://www.fema.gov/hazard/terrorism/exp/exp_during.shtm

 

If there is an explosion, you should:

Get under a sturdy table or desk if things are falling around you. When they stop falling, leave quickly, watching for obviously weakened floors and stairways. As you exit from the building, be especially watchful of falling debris.

Leave the building as quickly as possible. Do not stop to retrieve personal possessions or make phone calls.

Do not use elevators.

 

Once you are out:

Do not stand in front of windows, glass doors, or other potentially hazardous areas.

Move away from sidewalks or streets to be used by emergency officials or others still exiting the building.

 

If you are trapped in debris:

If possible, use a flashlight to signal your location to rescuers.

Avoid unnecessary movement so you don’t kick up dust.

Cover your nose and mouth with anything you have on hand. (Dense-weave cotton material can act as a good filter. Try to breathe through the material.)

Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can hear where you are.

If possible, use a whistle to signal rescuers.

Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause a person to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.

 

I’d also like to suggest some lessons that I believe we can pick up, from the eyewitness accounts of those at the blast.

The first is, that we have to keep vigilant for anything suspicious. Don’t be afraid to calmly and quietly inform the authorities if you see anything out of place. It could be a suspicious package, or what you believe might be lax security. Either way, tell the authorities about it.

The second is, to be always be mindful of the exits and places you might have to pass, in case of an emergency.

The third, is that whether you’re with a group of friends on an outing, or at your place of work, you should also have a designated place to meet each other, in case of an emergency, if you get separated. Try to remain there, if it’s safe, until you have a clearer idea of what’s going on.

Have a system in place to inform your loved ones of where you are; keep your parents and friends posted as to where you are at any given time. Do your best to always have identification on you, in a secure place.

Take a first aid course, and consider lending your assistance to organizations like the Red Cross. Their number is a good one to have on hand, because in emergency situations, the Red Cross often serves as a clearing house for information.

In an emergency situation, people will react to danger in different ways. Sometimes you’ll have to be patient because of how different reactions can be. Some people will be angry, others paralyzed by fear, some will cry, some will even try to crack jokes. The best rule of thumb is to keep informed, but to make sure you are getting reliable information.

At this point, I’d like to invite our guest to join us, and share with us any additional pointers he may have…

…When we return, how our authorities respond to disasters, and what we can expect from the authorities –and how we can help.

 

My view

 

http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view_article.php?article_id=95740

 

Tonight instead of my view, I would like to give way to Patricia, who expressed best of all, certainly better than I, what I believe to be in many a person’s thoughts these days. These words are from her Sunday column. Pat?

I’m sure it’s the same for many people, that necessary varnish of indifference, of philosophical acceptance that allows us to wake up in the morning and go plodding off to work—if we bleed for every man, woman and child who died violently or disappeared in the last few years, we’ll have nothing left.

But I don’t think that distance can ever be there again. When the soldiers were beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf, we were disgusted, violated, but we could push past it and say it’s the risk a soldier takes. It is the same for the activists and journalists, the leaders and politicians. They’re only names, mourned now, replaced by someone else’s story tomorrow. But what’s different about the Glorietta blast, in the reactions and confessions and the dozens of entries in blogs all over the Internet, is the uniform mix of fear and relief. There is no forgetting this one. The words that are repeated, in murmurs and whispers down the alleyways of cyberspace are the same. It could have been my brother. It could have been my boyfriend. It could have been my mother. It could have been me.

Goodnight.

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