Sunday, January 13, 2008

If Glorietta Was Bombed--Where's the Crater??

UPPOSE you were asked to investigate the Glorietta Blast in order to determine its true cause, and you were told that a BOMB is suspected, what is the first thing you would look for in the Basement?

Right! Where is the CRATER? A bomb that size -- capable of blowing up three floors of the mall, scattering and wrecking dozens of cars and trucks outside the building like they were Tonka toys--such an explosion would leave a big hole in the ground. As an accident investigator you want to find that hole to strengthen the theory that it was indeed a bomb, and to estimate the amount of high explosive used, based on the size of the crater.

I think that a crater would prove that a bomb was used, and trace amounts of the type of high explosive used would be found in the crater, as well as remnants of the explosive device. Conversely if there is no crater to be found, the chances are almost nil that the cause was a bomb.

Ayala Land Inc. who own and operate Glorietta Mall, yesterday officially disagreed with the government's official finding that the blast was a methane gas explosion. They claim that trace amounts of RDX (an ingredient of the plastic explosive, C4) collected at the site suggest a bomb was involved.

Let us grant, arguendo, that RDX was found in the basement. We ought to ask, where was it found? In a crater?

Randy David has Delusions of Omniscience as his Sunday column when he makes it sound like the National Capitol Region Police Commander, Geary Barias and the police investigators just ignored the report that RDX had been found in that basement, together, I suppose, in a grand conspiracy with the US FBI, the Australian Federal Police, and all the other investigators that participated?

What Barias said was that there was no other evidence to support the theory of a bomb explosion. Like a CRATER! Also no bomb parts or remnants were found, nor was any more RDX detected by the FBI with their fancy new gear capable of parts per billion detection of RDX from up to four feet underground, such as in land mines like the kind the NPA uses. Trace amounts of RDX were reportedly found on the first or second day of the investigation, but it was apparently not collected properly (where, when, how, by whom), no more of RDX was found, and no other component of C4 but RDX has been claimed to be found.

How can we decide between the two competing theories of a methane gas deflagration, and a bomb made from high explosive like C4 or TNT?

I think simple physical reasoning can help.

In a bomb explosion involving material like C4 or TNT, the force of the explosion is pretty much in all directions and emanates from the high explosive detonation. Consequently, damage is greatest at the very center of the bomb blast.

A methane gas "explosion" is very different from a bomb blast, leaving a very different set of physical evidence. It's really more like the sudden release of high pressure gas from a confined space and occurs in the direction of the weakest portion of the container. In the case of Glorietta the "container" was the basement. It's weakest portion was the floor above it. It is posited by the investigators that methane and diesel vapor built up in the basement over time and was ignited by a spark from malfunctioning electrical gear (or maybe some unfortunate soul came into the basement for a cigarette!). When volatile gas like methane burns, its internal pressure builds up exponentially in a flash, and something was bound to give, in this case, the floor, as opposed to the ground or the sides of the Glorietta mall basement.

The type of damage observed in this incident, in which MOST of it occurred ABOVE the basement is truly consistent with a methane gas deflagration. The absence of a crater cannot be explained by a trace or two of RDX, which is a common enough ingredient that could have come from anywhere or anything, not just C4. I think this is why almost all local and foreign investigators eliminated the possibility of a bomb explosion, after a simple physical inspection of the basement.



stuart-santiago said...

okay, no crater, no bomb. so it was a gas explosion, or what you call a methane gas deflagration. then my question is, was it necessarily due to negligence? could it not have been staged or engineered? is that not humanly possible?

blackshama said...

Looks like it is the Ayala's version of the Tunguska Russia fireball of 1908.

Scientists still debate what really caused that. The only evidence are felled trees.

Where's the crater?

BTW while it is really possible that biological processes made the Glorietta blast possible, it amazes me that so much methane was produced by bacteria living under a mall. It's mind boggling for an environmental scientist like me since a methane blast is extremely rare in nature.

manuelbuencamino said...

The crater is the credibility of the PNP

DJB Rizalist said...

not that rare blackshama. Several incidents of this type occur worldwide, especially in coal mines. also methane gas explosions are apparently associated with volcanic flows. Where lava flows over fresh vegetation huge pockets of methane form and spontaneously explode along slopes and near surround of volcanoes.

DJB Rizalist said...

it's your friend trillanes with a crater in his head, hehe.

manuelbuencamino said...


Remember when the PNP said they would build a scale model of the G2 basement and then demonstrate how the whole thing happened?

Sayang they didn't do it. They didn't walk the talk.

Maybe they were afraid of falling into a crater. hehe

manuelbuencamino said...

Come to think of it you're a scientist aren't you? Do you think that explosion can be recreated so that all doubts are laid to rest?

DJB Rizalist said...

The business of science IS to doubt received wisdom. It's greatest virtue is skepticism. Never will we lay all doubts to rest. Because the more we know the more we know how much we don't know.

But it's very simple. It's like if I say a meteorite the size of Volkswagen has landed at the Luneta. Now if you go there and Jose Rizal gives you a quizzical look coz even he hasn't seen a meteor crater, and you don't see one, how likely is it that the claim is true.

In the same way, it's hard to make C4 explode and have all the damage in the vertical direction. A bomb usually has isotropic explosion characteristics.

So while we don't lay all doubts to rest, we have confidence in the meaning of probability. We can at least prefer one explanation over the other as being more likely to be true.

But we must always be open minded to new evidence.

Amadeo said...

For the sake of introducing a possibility, purely from a layman’s point of view.

We know a bit about bunker-busting bombs, which can penetrate through reinforced concrete before exploding and thus creating underground craters.

What if the bomb detonated did not have bunker-busting capabilities, and thus the force of the explosion was forced to focus upward – to the upper floors? No crater on the basement floor because the bomb could not bust through it. And we assume that underneath that basement floor would be the hardy reinforced foundation of that multi-storey building.

Special explosives are used to create bunker-busting bombs and their casings of hardened steel and alloys.

Anonymous said...

PNP chief Razon and his loyal dog Geary Barias are fart bomb freaks. Thanks for their Mickey Mouse type of investigation. Only morons buy their fart bomb explosion angle. Where’s the crater? You can find it on their pea brains filled with RDX.

adb said...


Re crater or no crater: an engineer tells me a bomb that goes off on the surface, i.e., off the air does not create a crater and depending on how close it was to the ground, doesn't necessarily cause a crater either.

DJB Rizalist said...

Well, if you're stuck in Trillanes mode, anything is possible. Wow, but this time GMA's boys, who can hardly do anything right anyway, managed to create a high explosive detonation that leaves no crater. No only that, it leaves only traces of RDX, nothing else: no other explosive chemical component, no bomb parts, no wires, fuses, no crater!

C'mon folks, this was a nuclear ebak fart, like a soda bottle full of mentos bursting through the cap: its weakest point.

Adb said...

Sorry to disappoint you -- have never been nor am I now struck on the Trillanes mode.

In fairness, must say my question was succint; didn't give person I asked any other element or history of glorietta blast on which base his succint answer either; just asked him: Will a bomb that explodes create a crater?

(By the way, person I asked was my husband who served as commander in a UK nuclear submarine.)

DJB Rizalist said...

of course in general whether a crater actually is created or not depends on the bomb and the surroundings. If we put a firecracker in a steel safe and blow it up, there might not be a crater!

But in the specific case of Glorietta, a methane gas explosion is the superior explanation only because it can explain the damage to 3 floors of the mall and outside, yet not need a crater!

The real problem with the bomb theory is that, while not completely impossible, the absence a crater requires a more complicated and highly unlikely scenario.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't you have asked this question to yourself when this first occurred and not hollered about terrorism acts or whatever your fertile mind was concocting at the time, way before Trillanes came up with his?

DJB Rizalist said...

you give simple bloggers too much credit. even omniscience! Excuse me, but I'm allowed to make mistakes, as long as I admit them, especially when we are misled by whoever made those phone calls claiming credit for glorietta. i wonder which mischief makers were capable of that? but don't blame me for THEIR deceptions.

luningning said...

Why the PNP investigators eliminated or totally discarded the RDX initial finding at the explosion site? Are they hiding something sinister? The PNP has credibility problem. The Glorrieta 2 blast case is not yet close until the real perpetuators are brought to justice.

Foreign experts cast doubts on PNP's Glorietta blast findings

An international terror and insurgency expert on Tuesday cast doubt on the police's findings that the deadly Glorietta 2 mall blast in Makati City last year was caused by a gas explosion while a Malaysian bomb expert stood by a finding that the blast was caused by explosives.
"The government needs to conduct quick and clear inquiry," Kit Collier, an International Crisis Group consultant, told foreign media members at a conference in Makati City.
Collier was referring to the delayed report of the Philippine National Police's findings on the October 19 Glorietta 2 mall blast that killed 11 people and wounded 108 others. The police released its report on the incident last week.

Anonymous said...

"Excuse me, but I'm allowed to make mistakes, as long as I admit them,..."

that's what i like about you, djb, unlike the radical cook who won't admit nor tolerate counter recipes.

tiki said...

I think Randy David was writing about the initial RDX findings and not a crater.