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RP soldier used cell phone to guide his rescuers

By Jocelyn Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:54:00 01/15/2010

Filed Under: Disasters (general), Earthquake

MANILA, Philippines?A Filipino soldier used his cell phone to lead searchers to his rescue in the basement of a collapsed hotel. But three of his comrades remained trapped in the UN building toppled by Tuesday?s powerful quake in Haiti, the military said Thursday.

In a phone call to the Philippines, the head of the Filipino contingent to Haiti, Lt. Col. Lope Dagoy, said Cpl. David Catacutan was rescued by his troops from the wreckage of Hotel Montana before noon Thursday.

Catacutan suffered bruises and was recuperating in the barracks of the Philippine contingent in the Italian House on Rue Theodule, according to Dagoy.

He was escorting a UN VIP who went to the hotel gym for a workout when the fierce quake occurred, said Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Troops were able to locate Catacutan in the rubble of the hotel following a text message from him stating he was in the hotel gym in the basement, Brawner said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said elements of the Philippine contingent were now involved in search and assistance operations for Filipinos caught in the disaster.

Foreign Undersecretary Esteban Conejos said there were 290 Filipino workers in Haiti, not 447 as earlier reported. He also said that one soldier was injured, Sgt. Bonifacio T. Pait of Tabuk, Kalinga, but had no immediate information on the other Filipinos.

Apostolic Nuncio safe

Philippine Ambassador Hilario Davide Jr. reported from the UN headquarters in New York that the Filipino Apostolic Nuncio in Haiti, Msgr. Barnardito Auza of Bohol, was safe.

The Philippine National Police said that 15 PNP personnel who were part of the Filipino contingent in Haiti were unscathed.

Brawner told reporters that Dagoy made a second phone call to the AFP Peacekeeping Operations Center at Camp O?Donnell in Capas, Tarlac, at about 11:30 a.m. Thursday.

He made the first call to the headquarters at 8 p.m. Wednesday to report that four members of the Philippine peacekeeping force were still missing.

3 unaccounted

Three hours after the earthquake, he phoned his wife to say some of his men were trapped in some of the buildings in the capital, Port-au-Prince.

The three others were still inside Christopher Hotel, which served as the UN headquarters, together with Hedi Annabi, head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, according to Brawner.

He identified the three as Police Officer 3 Perlie Panangui, Sgt. Janice Arocena and Sgt. Eustacio Bermudez. They were all working as clerks in the various UN offices on the second floor of Christopher Hotel.

?They might have been working overtime because it was past 5 p.m. when the quake happened. Most of the UN workers in that building had already left for their barracks or for their respective homes,? Brawner said.

Annabi, who was on the 4th floor of the hotel reportedly meeting with the Chinese ambassador, was among the 16 UN personnel confirmed dead in the earthquake that reduced impoverished Haiti to shambles.

Families informed

?The families of the three soldiers were informed that they were still unaccounted for but we are hopeful that they will be rescued by our troops there,? Brawner said.

Catacutan?s family was also immediately informed of his rescue, he added.

Brawner said he expected to hear more from Dagoy.

?There is no electricity there so Colonel Dagoy is trying to save the battery life of the satellite phone ... the arrangement is that he will call us when there is a definite development,? he said.

In Ilagan, Isabela, Irene de Guzman, a school teacher, said she was concerned after she had not heard from her 56-year-old husband Remegio, a transport supervisor for the UN Development Programme.

De Guzman said she talked to Remegio just before the quake struck. With reports from Cynthia D. Balana and Villamor Visaya Jr., Inquirer Northern Luzon

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