Retrieval operation continues to find 18 still missing in Natonin landslide

Published November 3, 2018, 3:20 PM

by Patrick Garcia

 

By Zaldy Comanda

NATONIN, Mountain Province – The rescue and retrieval operation for the 18 still missing in a landslide here continues, with a large number of operatives concentrating their effort on the river.

In this image provided by the Department of Public Works and Highways, Mountain Province District Engineering Office, rescuers dig through the earth to search for survivors after a massive landslide in Natonin, Mountain Province, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018. (DPWH MPDSEO via AP / MANILA BULLETIN)
In this image provided by the Department of Public Works and Highways, Mountain Province District Engineering Office, rescuers dig through the earth to search for survivors after a massive landslide in Natonin, Mountain Province, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018. (DPWH MPDSEO via AP / MANILA BULLETIN)

As of Saturday, a total of 12 bodies have been retrieved at ground zero in sitio Ha’rang, barangay Banawel, this town.

The dead identified as Benito Longan Joel Arevalo,junjun Laron ,Bert Canon ,Gregorio Castro,John Temacheg ,Juanita Longan, Virginia Catet,Jerry Epan and Raymundo Ngilin and two others unidentified.

On Thursday, Mayor Mateo Chiyawan had declared the shift from rescue of living victims who could have been trapped on the tons of mud to retrieval operation of the remains of the people who sought refuge at the concrete building of the Department of Public Works and Highways during the height of typhoon “Rosita” on October 30.

Around 200 Search and Rescue operatives composed of government personnel, volunteers from various provinces in the region aided by sniffing dogs and heavy equipment used to remove the tons of debris, mud and boulders that buried the building.

Former Natonin Mayor Marie Rafael who is currently the Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs of the Presidential Communications Operations Office had expressed sadness for the sad fate of her town.

Rafael walked over 10 kilometers in 4 hours, traversing the 31 remaining landsides that were blocking the roads from Paracelis town going to ground zero on November 1 to see for herself the condition on the ground and the situation of her townmates.

“We”ve had tragedies in the past, typhoons but this is the first time we have casualties and this magnitude,” said Rafael who served as mayor from 2007 to 2010.

She added that they had several experiences of being isolated for days or weeks following a typhoon, which they have gotten used to, but never had the casualties like what “Rosita” left.

“It is saddening that is why I immediately came over. I felt I needed to be here to help our people especially in coordinating their needs and boosting their morale that we in government will help,” she said. From Baguio, Paracelis is about 10 hours away by land and several more hours to reach Natonin.

Rafael is with this writer on a chopper of the Philippine Airforce to this town together with DSW regional director Janet Armas to assist and distribute assistance to the relatives of the victims and Office of Civil Defense-CAR regional director Ruben Carandang to supervise the retrieval operation.

Rafael expressed confidence that the DPWH will continue to operate 24- hours a day until the road is opened up to Poblacion.

As of Friday, the road clearing had opened the road on “punch-through” status to allow equipment to reach ground zero and hopefully barangay poblacion, the town’s center.

DPWH Cordillera regional director Tiburcio Canlas had earlier relayed his personal assessment of the roads to Natonin saying that it might take a month to fully clear the road of the debris.

The Cordillera has yet to recover from the devastation of typhoon “Ompong” that left over 100 people dead in Itogon and in other provinces when it was again battered by typhoon “Rosita” where an initial 22 have been recorded dead.

Seven deaths were recorded in Ifugao; 1 in Lubuagan, Kalinga; 2 in Barlig town and the 12 recovered bodies in Natonin, Mt. Province.

This number is expected to increase as the operation to find the missing bodies in Natonin continues.

A total of 7,507 families or 30,666 persons in 224 barangays were affected in the six provinces of the Cordillera.

 
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