By Francis Wakefield
The Philippine Army (PA) said that it has tapped its 525th Engineer Combat Battalion (ECB) and K9 military working dogs (MWD) to support the conduct of rescue and retrieval operations along with other government agencies and civic groups in barangay Ucab, Itogon, Benguet where casualties were reported after the mudslides brought about by typhoon Ompong.
Army spokesman Lt. Col. Louie Villanueva said that aside from being a combat support unit, the 525th ECB has been primarily tasked as the Philippine Army Disaster Response Unit (PA DRU) while the K9 unit, aside from its usual duty as bomb detection entity, can also be utilized to complex emergencies to save human lives.
Villanueva said the ECB, composed of six search and rescue retrieval (SRR) teams with their heavy equipment and specialized tools is providing the much-needed workforce as well as teams from K9 search and rescue (SAR) that complements in detecting victims buried under the mud.
As of Tuesday, there are 39 dead, 65 missing, and 15 who suffered from minor injuries and already in the process of recovery at their respective homes.
There are also 337 families who have been evacuated out of the area to reduce exposure to hazards and were given food, water, shelter and also medical care.
Villanueva said rescuers are now facing difficulties in removing boulders of rocks and the hardening mud due to the warming weather. In this condition, the troops are working relentlessly for a speedy retrieval and rescue operations in the hopes of saving more lives.
Army chief Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito D. Bautista, expressed his sympathy to the families in the tragic loss of their loved ones and he also assured the unwavering support of the command for the rescue and relief efforts.
“The Philippine Army share the grief in this tragic loss and is mourning with our people. We urge the citizens to unite in this worthy endeavor to support the Army troops and other rescue workers,” Villanueva said.