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5 more bodies found in supermarket ruins

PHOTO BY FAYE ORELLANA/INQUIRER.net

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — Five more bodies were recovered from the rubble of a supermarket in Porac, Pampanga province, on Wednesday as rescuers pressed their search for survivors three days after the building crashed down in a 6.1-magnitude earthquake.

The recovery of the bodies brought the death toll from Monday’s powerful earthquake to 17.

According to the provincial disaster office, 77 employees of Chuzon Supermarket, which collapsed in the quake, had been accounted for as of Wednesday noon.

A day earlier, Vice Gov. Dennis Pineda reported that there had been 90 employees unaccounted for.

Employees unaccounted for

On Wednesday, Angelina Blanco, leader of the provincial disaster response operation, said the search for survivors would continue after information given by the supermarket’s security and management indicated a number of employees remained missing and could still be alive.

Blanco said the response team had sought help from private engineers in the search for survivors.

Vice Governor Pineda said a deadline could not be set for terminating the operation. “Even one life is important,” he said.

Porac Mayor Condralito de la Cruz said most of the supermarket employees were from Tarlac and Pangasinan provinces.

President Rodrigo Duterte toured quake damage on Tuesday night and ordered the suspension of Chuzon’s license to give the government time to inspect the chain’s other stores to see whether these complied with building regulations.

Owner questioned

Police General Oscar Albayalde, chief of the Philippine National Police, said the supermarket’s owner, Samuel Chu, appeared at a police station in Porac at the start of an investigation of the disaster on Tuesday.

The building that housed Chuzon Supermarket in Porac had four stories, but initial investigation showed the building was designed to have only two levels, according to Interior Secretary Eduardo Año.

The President said the government might need to halt the operations of other Chuzon branches because “the one who built the Porac store may have built the other stores.”

He said investigators should determine whether the buildings were structurally sound or whether the owners had cut corners in building the stores.

Guagua Mayor Dante Torres and Santo Tomas Mayor John Sambo said they had temporarily shut down Chuzon branches in their towns to give way to an assessment of the buildings’ structural integrity.

In Bataan province, municipal engineer Ildefonso Tarriela Jr. said no structural defects had been found on the three-story building of Chuzon at Barangay San Isidro in Mariveles town.

Damage to infrastructure

Monday’s quake caused at least P200 million in damage to roads in Luzon, according to an initial estimate by the Department of Public Works and Highways reported on Tuesday by the agency’s head, Mark Villar.

On Wednesday, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) said the quake caused P50 million in damage to irrigation systems in the region.

Irrigation systems in Pampanga, Bataan and Zambales were reported to have either collapsed or sustained cracks in the earthquake.

The Cong Dadong Dam in Arayat town, Pampanga, sustained the worst damage, estimated at P20 million, NIA spokesperson Pilipina Bermudez said.

She said the systems could still be used, though not at the optimum level.

The Department of Agriculture has yet to report on damage to agriculture caused by Monday’s quake. —With reports from Greg Refraccion, Karl R. Ocampo and AP

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TAGS: Cuzco Supermarket rescue, Luzon earthquake 2019
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