‘If we would die, I wanted to hug them’
NAGA CITY, Cebu – Alejandro Ravanes was lying on the bed in Barangay Tinaan here when he felt the earth slightly shook before 6 a.m. on Thursday.
He brushed it aside.
What followed after seemed like a nightmare for Ravanes and his neighbors in Sitio Sindulan, Barangay Tinaan as a portion of the mountain suddenly collapsed and crashed into 14 houses below.
As of 5:45 p.m., the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) said 14 bodies had been recovered while 15 survivors were brought to the hospital for treatment of their injuries.
Rescue groups were working to find the at least 57 persons who were reported missing in the landslide – the worst to hit Cebu in recent years.
Ravanes, 26, immediately hugged his wife, Florable and their three-year-old son when a pile of soil covered his house.
“If we would die, I wanted to hug them,” he said in an interview over radio station dyLA.
Then he heard his son crying that his feet were hurting, making him realize that his son was still alive.
This gave him the strength to find ways to survive.
Ravanes said he tried to open the door of their room but it wouldn’t move since soil and rocks blocked it.
He then went to the window, destroyed its jalousies and crawled their way back to the surface.
After they safely got out, he heard his brother’s voice underneath the pile of soil, shouting for help.
He and his wife immediately dug to where the voice came from and pulled out his brother, Sidney, his sister-in-law and their daughter, Baby Jane, 8.
Analyn Pansoy was in her kitchen preparing breakfast when they heard a loud crack.
She, her husband Raul and daughter Lera were able to get out of the house and ran as fast as their feet could take them.
Behind them were her parents who were following them.
To her horror, she saw her mother Loriana Capoy, 58, swallowed by the cascading soil which seemed to be trying to catch them.
She remained missing, including five of her relatives.
Her father, Nestor, was among those who survived but injured.
Pansoy said in an interview over dyLA that before the tragedy, they had been complaining of the cracks on the side of the mountain slopes above their houses in Tinaan, an interior village located about 2.4 kilometers from the city proper.
She suspected that the quarry operation of the nearby cement factory might be the culprit.
Naga City officials sought the help of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) last month to check on the crack found on the mountainside of Sitio Tagaytay, Tinaan, especially that the cracks appeared to be slowly getting bigger.
On Aug. 29, Gerardo Mahusay of MGB-7 wrote to Naga Mayor Kritine Chiong, assuring her that Tinaan was safe and that there was nothing to worry about. He wrote that the cracks were not related to nearby mining operations.
In an interview, Mahusay clarified that his letter was merely based on the initial findings of their inspection made on the same day.
He was supposed to issue a final report on Thursday based on a second inspection on Wednesday.
He didn’t say the content of their final report.
The Naga city government and the barangay officials, however, conducted preemptive evacuation on Wednesday night during heavy downpour out of fear of a landslide due to the cracks on the mountain slope.
At least 350 families heeded the call while others remained in their homes.
About 6 a.m. on Thursday, what they feared most happened.
A resident of Sitio Sindulan identified only as Armando said he just came from work when he saw the tragedy that struck his village.
He said cries for help could be heard from underneath what used to be the house of Oliva Maratas, prompting him to get a shovel and start digging.
He heard a woman’s voice pleading, “Help. Please help me.”
Armando tried to dig fast but it took him and other rescuers two hours to get into Maratas, 63.
But by then, she was already dead.
Naga City Police Station Chief Roderick Gonzales said they also received reports of some victims sending text messages and even calling their relatives and friends to inform them that they were trapped inside their homes that were buried in loose soil.
Jenessa Campanilla was among the victims who managed to send a message using Facebook messenger to friends and relatives.
But the continuous movement of the soil and the morning rains slowed down rescue operations. -with reports from Futch Inso, Rosalie Abatayo, Doris C. Bongcac and Morexette Erram, Inquirer Visayas
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