TAGUM CITY—If help had come earlier, Aimee (not Imee as earlier reported) Kay Sayson may still be alive today.
But the 7-year-old daughter of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW), who was rescued from muddy waters after Typhoon “Pablo” struck New Bataan town in Compostela Valley on Dec. 5, was pronounced dead on arrival when she was brought to Davao Regional Hospital (DRH) on the same day.
She had been half-submerged in the waters for nearly a day before she was found by the rescuers the next morning.
Sayson had become some kind of a gauge for rescuers hoping to find more survivors of the tragedy, because at her age, she had endured the ordeal for 24 hours.
After she was plucked out of the mud by rescuers, Sayson was wrapped in a heavy blanket and layers of plastic. She was trembling.
Dead on arrival
Rashman Lim, an emergency nurse at the government-run DRH, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer Sayson was “dead on arrival” when she was rushed to DRH due to hypothermia.
“She was already [in a state of] rigor mortis when she was brought here at 11 a.m.,” Lim said.
He said the girl’s body had already been claimed by a relative, about 12 hours after she was rushed in the hospital.
Sayson was with her father, Rommel, and brother, Ayel, at their house in New Bataan when Pablo was battering the province. Her mother, Inideth Hayana, works abroad.
Rommel and Ayel remained missing to this day, among the 406 individuals who are the subject of search-and-rescue operations all over Compostela Valley.
Looking for Aimee’s ma
Labor officials are trying to locate Sayson’s mother.
“We’re now tracing the mother’s whereabouts,” Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said. She said the OFW could have been deployed in any of three states—Kuwait, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“The one in UAE with the same name is not from Compostela so we already ruled that out. We’re still checking Kuwait and Taiwan,” she added.
Baldoz said President Aquino instructed her, along with the Department of Foreign Affairs, to communicate with the OFW, once identified.
“We will explain to her what happened and convince her to come home. The government is ready to help her with livelihood assistance. Hopefully, we can convince her to come home,” the labor chief said.
“We are still hoping to find more survivors, however slim the chance might be,” Compostela Valley Gov. Arturo Uy said.
Rescue teams were concentrating their efforts in New Bataan town, where at least 398 are still unaccounted for.
Augmentation teams from other areas have also arrived to assist in the search-and-rescue operations, with teams coming as far as from Luzon, according to Compostela Valley first district Rep. Ma. Carmen Zamora.
“I was informed that two teams from the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) are already here to help in locating those still missing,” Zamora said.
She said sniffing dogs from the police were also being mobilized to aid in the search.
Uy said authorities attempted to bring food, medicine and other provisions by helicopters to areas isolated by Pablo on Thursday but the lack of safe areas to land on had forced authorities to abort the mission.
As a result, Uy said residents had to walk for kilometers to where the choppers landed before they could get their provisions or to bring their injured relatives so they could get medical attention.
But as of Friday morning, he said 4×4 vehicles could already access these areas because rescuers—armed with chainsaws—cleared the roads of downed trees.
During his visit to New Bataan on Friday, President Aquino assured survivors that the government would continue its operations to find those still missing.
“Those who are missing, I want accounted for, preferably alive,” he told some 2,000 people assembled at New Bataan public grounds.
In Davao Oriental, Gov. Corazon Malanyaon said government agencies had started distributing food stuff to the displaced families.
“The goal is for everyone to get food every day,” she said, adding that there are about 50,000 people affected by the typhoon in the province, considered the “ground zero.”
Malanyaon’s house in Cateel was also heavily damaged during the typhoon.
“But that is nothing compared to what the others have experienced and continue to experience,” she said.
As of 12 noon on Friday, the provincial disaster response office said it had recorded a total of 216 deaths, 59 of which are from Cateel.
The Cateel police office had reported that 101 people had been killed in the town on Thursday.
Telecommunication lines in the towns of Cateel, Baganga and Boston towns remained down as of Friday afternoon.
In General Santos City, relatives of the 396 city-based fishermen, who went missing in the high seas of Surigao del Norte, are anxiously waiting for any information on their kin.
On Thursday, around 500 persons trooped to Makar Wharf following information that a sea vessel carrying cadavers of some of the missing fishermen was to dock here.
But they found the information to be false.
Fishing magnate Marfin Tan, former president of the Socsksargen Federation of Fishing & Allied Industries Inc., said a total of 11 mother boats, two carrier boats and 27 light boats, along with the crew, went missing while sailing off Surigao del Norte as Pablo was making landfall.
The figure of 396 missing fishermen was correct, he said.
Three fishermen from Malapatan town in Sarangani province, who were rescued by a fishing boat off Davao Oriental after Pablo made landfall, had arrived home.
Jerome Luchavez, 22; his younger brother Rosvelle, 20; and Lemuel Gomez told reporters that an empty ice box saved them from drowning when winds overturned their boat.
Five of their colleagues, however, were swept away by huge waves and remain missing to this day. With reports from Dennis Santos, Frinston Lim, Nico Alconaba and Aquiles Zonio, Inquirer Mindanao and Tina G. Santos