No New Year’s celebration for responders in landslide-stricken Buhi
LEGAZPI CITY — Responders in Buhi town, Camarines Sur were not able to celebrate the New Year as they continue to search and retrieve bodies buried by landslide caused by heavy rains brought by Tropical Depression “Usman.”
As of noon Tuesday, 14 bodies from indigenous peoples’ villages were retrieved by the team composed of the Coast Guard, police, the Buhi emergency rescue team, and communications group Regional Emergency Assistance Communications Team (React) Buhi.
The victims, who were from the villages of Iraya and Sta. Cruz, were in evacuation centers and in their homes when the landslide happened on Saturday evening, survivors said.
Retrieval operations at the landslide site ended at 10 p.m. Monday and was immediately followed by a meeting of the responding team that ended at midnight.
“We were not able to celebrate the New Year. There was a simple feast at the local government unit (LGU) building, and that was it. Responders had to rest to have energy for the following day at the site,” said PO1 Jonah Quien, Buhi police spokesperson.
On New Year’s Day, she said only a few residents celebrated with fireworks, while some paraded around the town with their motorcycles honking their horns. Retrieval operations resumed at 6 a.m. Tuesday.
Carmelita Marquez, the town’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management officer, said Buhi evacuees needed clothes, beddings, kitchen utensils, water containers, medicines, and hygiene kits.
She said the number of families affected by flooding in 21 villages in Buhi has risen to 6,058.
Meanwhile, in Sagñay town, also in Camarines Sur, the body count rose to 25, while 23 others were still missing, according to former MDRRMO Marjun San Felipe, who is now Sagñay’s municipal administrator.
“We transformed the covered court in Patitinan into the incident command center,” he told the Inquirer. “The bodies were brought there once they are retrieved.”
Patitinan said they were having difficulty in the retrieval operations because of the bad weather, poor telecommunications, and the difficulty in reaching the area due to impassable roads.
San Felipe said that most of the victims in Patitinan village were those who sought shelter in the lowlands, like those families who sought shelter in a chapel who were washed out, with some of the victims still missing.
He said evacuees needed potable water, shelter, and additional relief goods to get through the days ahead.
In Baao, Camarines Sur, the Office of the Vice President sent 1,654 food packs to affected families in the villages of San Francisco, San Jose, and San Roque. At least five residents were landslide victims in Baao.
According to the Office of Civil Defense Bicol, the death toll from Usman was 59, but the number is still expected to rise as local governments still need to identify more victims.
Most of the victims who have been identified were from Camarines Sur, where 23 died due to landslides and drowning in the towns of Tinambac, Buhi, Garchitorena, Baao, and Lagonoy.
In Albay province, 17 have been confirmed dead. Most of the victims were from Tiwi, where 14 died due to landslide, while three others were recorded in Legazpi City, also due to landslide.
Other fatalities were recorded in Masbate (7), Camarines Norte (6), and Sorsogon (6).
As of New Year’s Eve, the cost of damage to agriculture throughout Bicol region was P242 million. /ee
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.