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Baguio City Earthquake, Philippines (1990)

Baguio City Earthquake, Philippines (1990)

It was 4:26pm on Monday July 16, 1990 and most people were starting to wrap up the day's work when the earth stirred. Lasting only 45 seconds, the powerful trembler measuring 7.7 on the open-ended Richter scale, laid waste to this resort city.


The five-star Hyatt Terraces Plaza sustained the worst damage when its terraced front collapsed onto the hotel lobby area killing about 50 people. Landslides in this mountainous region cut off vital road links hampering the initial rescue effort. Hopes began to fade for hundreds of people believed trapped under collapsed buildings.


Thousands of city residents huddled in tattered tents and makeshift shelters in any open areas they could find, fearful of returning to what was left of their homes because of the many aftershocks. Baguio's three hospitals all suffered significant damage and were without power.


When the sheer magnitude of the rescue operation at hand became apparent, the Philippine government sent out an international call for help. Almost immediately, Singapore despatched its Lionheart team and a contingent of medical personnel from the Singapore Armed Forces.


Flown in by the Republic of Singapore Air Force, the men got to work almost immediately. As some team members distributed food and tents, others helped to treat the injured and prevent the outbreak of disease that usually follows such a calamity.


An SCDF rescue team was tasked to look for survivors in a four-storey building after the ground floor units collapsed in the earthquake. Nobody knew for sure if anyone was still trapped in the building but as long as there was a chance of life under the rubble, no effort would be spared.


Braving the pounding rain and the many aftershocks, which threatened to topple what was left of the building, SCDF officers began the gruelling task of tunnelling into the debris. What followed were days of slow, backbreaking work. In the end, no survivors were found. But for the officers, this was the ultimate test - putting their skills and their lives on the line to help a friend in need.

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Last updated on 19th Nov 2017