The 1990 Luzon Earthquake

Posted by Karl Lundgren on

Imagine waking up on a sunny morning in July 1990, anticipating another day in the picturesque city of Baguio, nestled amidst the lush mountains of Luzon, Philippines. You step outside, greeted by the cool mountain breeze and the scent of pine trees. The bustling streets are filled with locals and tourists going about their daily routines.

But suddenly, the tranquility is shattered. The ground beneath your feet begins to tremble violently, buildings sway precariously, and terrified screams fill the air. Panic ensues as the 1990 Luzon earthquake strikes with its unforgiving force, leaving a trail of destruction and chaos in its wake.

In this article, we transport ourselves back to that fateful day when nature unleashed its fury upon Luzon. We delve into the harrowing events that unfolded, the immense devastation that followed, and the remarkable resilience and recovery efforts undertaken by the people of Luzon. Join us as we embark on a journey to understand the profound impact of the 1990 Luzon earthquake and the unwavering spirit of its survivors.

Hyatt Terraces Baguio - 16 July 1990 Earthquake

On July 16, 1990, the island of Luzon in the Philippines experienced one of the most devastating natural disasters in its history—the Luzon earthquake. With a magnitude of 7.8, the earthquake left a trail of destruction, causing widespread damage and claiming thousands of lives. However, amidst the chaos and devastation, the people of Luzon showcased their unwavering spirit and resilience, coming together to rebuild their lives and communities. In this article, we delve into the events surrounding the 1990 Luzon earthquake, its impact on the region, and the remarkable recovery efforts that followed.

Background and Causes

The 1990 Luzon earthquake, also known as the Luzon earthquake of 1990 or the Baguio earthquake, originated near the town of Rizal in the province of Nueva Ecija. The earthquake was triggered by the movement along the Philippine Fault, a major fault line running through the region. Its epicenter was located at a depth of 15 kilometers, leading to widespread ground shaking and intense seismic activity.

Devastation and Human Toll

The powerful earthquake unleashed its destructive force across several provinces in Luzon, with the city of Baguio being one of the hardest hit. Buildings collapsed, roads crumbled, and landslides buried entire communities. The disaster resulted in the loss of approximately 1,621 lives, with thousands more injured and missing. The city of Baguio alone accounted for a significant number of casualties, as its infrastructure and densely populated areas suffered severe damage.

Response and Recovery Efforts

In the aftermath of the disaster, rescue operations were launched immediately, with local authorities and volunteers working tirelessly to save lives and provide aid to the affected communities. The Philippine government, along with international assistance, mobilized resources and relief efforts to support the affected regions.

Temporary shelters were set up for those who lost their homes, and medical teams were dispatched to provide essential healthcare services. The resilience of the Filipino people shone through as communities banded together to rebuild their lives. Local organizations, religious institutions, and non-governmental organizations played a crucial role in providing humanitarian assistance and facilitating the recovery process.

Lessons Learned and Impact

The 1990 Luzon earthquake served as a wake-up call for the Philippines in terms of disaster preparedness and mitigation strategies. It highlighted the need for stricter building codes and regulations to ensure structural integrity and minimize damage during earthquakes. The disaster also underscored the importance of public awareness and education regarding earthquake safety measures.

Furthermore, the Luzon earthquake brought attention to the vulnerability of urban areas and the need for comprehensive urban planning to mitigate the risks associated with earthquakes. The government implemented measures to strengthen infrastructure resilience and enhance emergency response systems to better prepare for future seismic events.


The 1990 Luzon earthquake left an indelible mark on the history and collective memory of the Filipino people. It was a tragic event that claimed numerous lives and caused immense destruction. However, it also served as a testament to the resilience and strength of the human spirit. The response and recovery efforts displayed the solidarity and compassion of the Filipino community, reminding us of the power of unity in the face of adversity.

Today, Luzon stands as a testament to the progress made in earthquake preparedness and mitigation. The lessons learned from the 1990 Luzon earthquake continue to shape policies and practices aimed at reducing the vulnerability of communities to seismic events. As we remember this tragic chapter in Luzon's history, we also honor the resilience and determination of its people in overcoming adversity and rebuilding their lives.

So what can we do to get better prepared?


A kit is not a safety blanket you just purchase to make yourself feel better, it is an important investment in your household’s safety and preparedness. Not all emergency kits are created equal, and we highly recommend using the Province of BC and Government of Canada resources when building or buying a kit. We are also pleased to offer Earthquake Kits that developed to meet the government requirements for emergency preparedness. Visit our Gov BC Earthquake Kit product page to view the contents of our kits and feel free to use this as a guideline for assembling your own. What’s important to us is not that you buy a kit from us, but that every household have a kit at the ready in case something unexpected should occur.


The Province of BC and the Federal Government have made huge strides in this area in recent years implementing an Emergency Notifications network through mobile carriers and testing it to great success levels. This can provide seconds to even minutes of advanced notice prior to an earthquake being felt in any given location. However, a network of this complexity relies on strategically positioned censors along the coastline. We need to continue expanding this network of sensors and make sure that existing censors are being properly monitored and maintained.

We also need to expand from mobile phone notifications to physical alarms in homes, buildings, and especially schools/daycares.

For more details on how this Early Detection Grid works, please check out the following video by the CBC several years ago.


Know the Hazards

Knowing which hazards you need to plan for is the first step to getting prepared


Build Your Kits

Put together a household emergency kit and grab-and-go bag.


Make Your Plan

Plan how you will respond to a disaster to stay focused and safe.


Guides and Resources

Preparedness guides and community resources are available to help get ready for emergencies.


Evacuation and Recovery Resources

Learn what happens in evacuations, what financial assistance you might be eligible for and other recovery resources.


Education Programs and Toolkits

Create awareness about preparing for emergencies with Prepared BC's easy-to-use education programs and social media toolkits.

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