‘It’s her! It’s her!’ Eight more bodies recovered
LA LIBERTAD, Negros Oriental—Jorlin Vergara broke down when he saw the brown shorts and orange-and-green plastic bracelet.
“It’s her! It’s her!” he shouted.
Search-and-rescue teams in Barangay (village) Solonggon had uncovered a leg, before digging out the remains of a young girl at around 10:45 a.m. Friday. The body turned out to be that of Vergara’s missing 16-year-old daughter, Joralie.
Joralie was among the eight remains, including a baby’s, that have been recovered in two landslide-hit towns of Negros Oriental since Thursday.
This brought the official death toll from the 6.9-magnitude quake and the landslides it triggered in the Central Visayas to 39, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).
The NDRRMC said 66 people are still missing.
“We are not giving up hope,” said NDRRMC executive director Benito Ramos in a phone interview from Guihulngan City.
Two seriously wounded survivors found in a mountainous area of Barangay Kagawasan, Guihulngan, yesterday, five days since the earthquake, have been airlifted to Dumaguete City, the provincial capital.
The NDRRMC has reported P250 million worth of infrastructure damage in Negros Oriental and P16 million in Cebu. Three bridges in Negros Oriental remain impassable.
Just minutes before the remains of his daughter was found, Vergara, 39, had all but lost hope she would be found alive.
“We just want to find her but I also do not want to see her remains because I don’t want to think about what she might have gone through,” he told the Inquirer as the search and retrieval teams continued digging, using backhoes, shovels, crowbars and picks.
Vergara’s wife, Lera, and Joralie’s twin sister, Joralin, managed to escape when their house collapsed as huge chunks of earth cascaded and covered around 60 houses of Bloke Dos in Barangay Solonggon.
Vergara was working on his farm just 100 meters from the family home when the earthquake and landslide struck.
“It’s so painful for us. Our house is gone along with all our things and we will not go back there because it has become a cemetery,” he said.
“It would have been less painful to start again if our family is complete,” said Vergara whose family has been staying at the barangay center which shelters about 200 evacuees.
Looking for Mama
Gerry Sanoy, 40, continues to search for his missing loved ones—his wife, Luna, 40, daughter Jeca, 20, and son RG, 15—who were all buried in the landslide. Only one daughter, Lourgie, survived.
Since Tuesday, Sanoy has been returning to his village, which has now been turned into a mountain of earth, rubble and uprooted trees. He brings food so he can stay there all day, praying for signs of his family.
Jemar Dinolan, 16, also comes every day and stands at the top of the rubble looking at the spot where his house once stood.
“I’m looking for my Mama,” he said.
Jemar’s mother, Maria Fe, failed to get out of the house as boulders and soil came rushing down the mountain.
Geoben, his father, who was out cutting bamboo narrowly escaped being hit by the boulders. Geoben shouted to villagers to get out of their houses and rushed to find his wife, but it was too late for the latter, Jemar said.
Jemar’s 80-year-old grandfather, Tandoy, is also missing.
Some were only able to confirm Friay that family members were missing.
“I tried calling them but there was no reply,” said Daisy Pocong-Lindayao, 24.
She cried when she saw rocks and soil where the house of her parents, George and Susan Pocong, used to be.
A sister-in-law and two of her nephews are also missing.
Lindayao said she was only able to go to Solonggon Friday as she had to evacuate her 3-year-old twin daughters to a school and there was nobody to take care of them.
Solonggon village chief Rene Gargoles said the landslide wiped out the entire Bloke Dos, a 2-hectare community of around 60 houses.
Forty-eight villagers remain missing and those who survived lost from eight to 10 relatives each.
Gargoles said it was the worst disaster to have happened to their barangay, one of the 23 hinterland barangays of La Libertad.
“We don’t know where to relocate the survivors. We have received food and water but we need more help,” Gargoles said.
Kanlaon closed to trekkers
The Kanlaon Volcano, which straddles Negros Occidental and Oriental provinces, has been temporarily closed to mountaineers after large cracks believed to have been caused by Monday’s quake were observed at its crater and land surfaces, according to Cecil Cañada, superintendent of the Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park (MKNP).
Kanlaon is an active volcano with a peak elevation of 2,435 meters and a base diameter of 30 kilometers.
Cañada said about three 50-meter-long cracks have been seen near the crater, while other cracks and a landslide have been noted within the MKNP. A landslide was also seen at Margaha Valley, the old crater of the volcano, he added.
Cañada also said the aftershocks from Monday’s earthquake and occasional heavy rainfall could pose some danger to mountain trekkers and tourists in the park.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has been informed of the damage to the volcano from the quake and was trying to arrange for an aerial survey of the area, he said.
However, it is difficult to get a chopper as they are being used for relief operations in Negros Oriental, Cañada said.
The volcano continues to be under observation amid the continuing aftershocks, he said.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala yesterday said efforts are underway to bring food to the stricken areas even as he assured the public that there was no shortage of rice in the affected region.
The earthquake, which struck Cebu and Negros provinces, caused landslides and damaged roads that left many barangays difficult to reach and virtually inaccessible to relief and rescue personnel.
Alcala said that as of Wednesday, the available rice in the damaged areas was good for 23 days, and the amount could go up if you add the stocks in the hands of farmers and commercial stores.
Alcala noted that some stores have chosen to remain closed following the quake because of concerns that they may be besieged or overwhelmed by buyers.
“There is no problem with rice. The problem we see is some stores are afraid to open, which was why some people find it difficult to buy it,” he told a press briefing.
He said he had instructed Department of Agriculture (DA) personnel to purchase livestock from piggeries and poultry farms and take these to the slaughterhouse. The meat is to be taken to the markets on consignment.
“We will help them while the situation has not yet normalized,” he said.
Vegetables will be delivered to affected areas as well, he said, adding that the DA would dispatch more patrol boats, if necessary, to deliver more poultry, meat and vegetables.
Alcala said he did not care how the food items are delivered as long as they reach their destination. He said he would not accept any excuse for failing to deliver them.
Noting the reluctance of worried storeowners to open for business, Alcala appealed to people to be more disciplined and emulate the orderly way in which the people of Japan went about their business following the devastating quake that hit their country last year.
The Russian government is extending humanitarian aid to survivors of the Central Visayas quake, according to Vice President Jejomar Binay.
The donations, which include 60 tons of relief goods composed of blankets, tents, sugar, and preserved fish and meat, will arrive in two batches on Feb. 11 and 14, he said.
Binay said Russian Ambassador Nikolay Kudashev had asked the Office of the Vice President to assist in facilitating the delivery of the relief goods to affected areas during a courtesy call to the Vice President’s office.—With reports from Dona Pazzibugan, Leila Salaverria and Tina Santos in Manila; and Carla Gomez, Inquirer Visayas
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