Philippines: More Bodies Recovered from Landslides

Froilan Gallardo and Richel V. Umel
Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, Philippines
180921-PH-search-620.jpeg Rescuers set up near a ravine in Itogon town as they prepare to remove bodies recovered from the massive landslide following Typhoon Mangkhut, Sept. 18, 2018.
Karl Romano/BenarNews

Rescuers on Friday refused to give up hope of finding survivors in a massive landslide in the central Philippines after relatives of the missing reported having received phone messages from people trapped under rubble the size of 10 football fields.

At least 29 bodies have been pulled from the rubble in the city of Naga, in Cebu province, since a portion of a rain-soaked mountain collapsed Thursday onto communities of informal settlers. About 60 remain missing.

Up north, in a mining community in Itogon town on Luzon island, rescuers continued digging through a landslide and pulling out bodies.

An updated toll by the Philippine National Police said the overall death toll six days after Typhoon Mangkhut ravaged the country has reached 95. The figure excludes those killed in Naga.

Garry Cabotaje, a local official and the designated spokesman in Naga, said intermittent rain made search and rescue operations difficult. However, he said there had been signs of life after police managed to rescue several people after they sent text messages.

But the rescuers were careful as well not to trigger a collapse of the mud, he said.

“The responders have to be careful in the retrieval and rescue operations. The landslide, which is about 15 meters below, covers about 70 hectares of land, the size of 10 football fields,” Cabotaje said.

He said combined police and military forces began the search operations at first light Friday in hopes of finding more survivors.

Resident Vhann Quisido said he was thankful to be spared.

“I was sleeping when I heard a loud noise,” he said by telephone. “I was waiting for the land to come into our house. It was very traumatic.”

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque expressed condolences to families.

“We sympathize with victims of the landslide in Naga and rest assured that the government will do everything it can to ease your pain. We are looking at how we can avoid these kinds of incidents in the future,” Roque said.

Naga Mayor Kristine Vanessa Chiong said she had asked the city council to place the city under a state of calamity amid rescue efforts at the landslide-hit areas. This meant that emergency funds could be released immediately.

“We are hoping that we can still recover them alive,” she said, referring to trapped residents who had sent emergency messages via mobile phones.

Jeoffrey Maitem in Cotabato contributed to this report.


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