VERA FILES FACT CHECK: FB page mixes old reports on “Big One” quake and tsunami

Another misleading post about “The Big One,” which the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) describes as a “strong” and “destructive” earthquake, is making the rounds on the Web.

On Nov. 12, around two weeks after earthquakes of magnitude 6.6 and 6.5 and numerous aftershocks hit provinces in Mindanao, a 13-day old Facebook (FB) Page named RUDY Baldwin posted two photos: one of a huge tsunami, and another of a collapsed and ruined building.

The images came with a long write-up claiming the Phivolcs has already confirmed that a “magnitude 8” quake caused by the movement of the West Valley Fault across Metro Manila and surrounding provinces might hit anytime. It said “30-meter-high waves” are no joke, and warned readers to prepare for the movement of the Manila Trench, a deep-sea trench located in the West Philippine Sea.

.The page said the fault line’s movement, which “may affect the San Manuel Fault Line” in Pangasinan, might trigger tsunami waves in the province as high as “32-feet tall.”

This post is misleading.

While it is true that the Phivolcs has released a statement advising the public to prepare for ‘“The Big One’,” the agency never said that it will be a “magnitude 8” earthquake causing tsunamis with waves as tall as “32 feet” or “30 meters.”

Instead, it is possibly an intensity 7 earthquake that will rock the whole of Metro Manila and nearby provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, and Laguna once “The Big One” strikes, according to an explanatory video released by Phivolcs on their official FB page.

Magnitude refers to the “energy released by an earthquake” and is measured by a device called a seismograph, while intensity is the “strength of an earthquake” based on its effects to people, objects, and the surroundings.

RUDY Baldwin’s write-up is only a rehash of a February 2017 FB post of local radio station DWCM Aksyon Radyo Pangasinan about “The Big One’s” possible effects on Pangasinan, published some days after Surigao Del Norte was hit by a magnitude 6.7 earthquake in 2017.

Some of the details in the write-up echo a 2014 GMA News report where Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum warned of a possible 32-feet tsunami that Western Bataan -- not Pangasinan -- might experience if the Manila Trench moves and causes a magnitude 8.2 earthquake.

A reverse image search showed the tsunami photo accompanying the text is actually a 2013 illustration of a Mega-Tsunami by artist Chris Wren and was originally published in BBC Magazine. Meanwhile, the second photo was taken in 1999 during the aftermath of an earthquake in Taiwan, the metadata of a high-definition copy of the image showed.

Moreover, predictions of when, where, and how strong an earthquake will be “is not yet possible,” as stated by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The PHIVOLCS, in its FB Page, has also already released a warning against false reports carrying predictions of earthquakes and tsunamis.

RUDY Baldwin’s misleading post got more than 14,000 comments and 18,000 reactions. It was shared more than 51,000 times by social media users.

(Editor's Note:VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)


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