By Aaron Recuenco
The success story of how an entire football team was rescued from a cave in Thailand is serving as a motivation for rescuers to find survivors from a mining site in Itogon, Benguet.
Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Francis Tolentino, the designated point man of President Duterte on rescue and relief operations in Northern Luzon, said they would fight for that very slim chance of getting survivors based on the assessment of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD).
“There is a possibility of survivors because we were told that there were tunnels there. Possibly, some of the survivors went inside that tunnels to seek refuge,” said Tolentino.
Based on the PNP data, a total of 59 people, seven of them unidentified, died in Itogon landslides. A total of 43 others are still missing.
The plan, according to Tolentino, is for oxygen tank-carrying rescuers to enter the tunnels to find survivors.
This strategy was employed in the rescue of trapped football team composed of young people in Thailand who were trapped in a cave.
But he said they have only two days to do so, as they would consider the scientific assessment of experts that such a time frame is more than enough of the estimate of a person to survive under such situation.
Besides, another weather disturbance is also expected to enter the country and subsequently dump rains that would mean halting the entire search and rescue operations.
“After one or two days and nothing happened, we will declare that this is already a retrieval operation,” said Tolentino.
Tolentino also vowed to continue with the operation until all the missing persons are found, especially in Barangay Ucab in Itogon town.
A total of 99 people were reported dead in the entire Luzon during the onslaught of typhoon “Ompong” last week.
In the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), a total of 83 people were reported dead – 12 in Baguio City, 64 in Benguet, one in Kalinga, and six in Mountain Province.
The rest are in Central Luzon, Ilocos Region, and Metro Manila.
Saturday, Itogon Mayor VictorioPalangdan said they will no longer allow mining activities in Barangay Ucab where the major landslide occurred, including small-scale mining.
He said he had already discussed the matter with the local police.
The number of rescuers in Barangay Ucab was also cut for safety of the rescuers and the journalists covering the search and rescue operations.