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MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - It was not war but the fury of nature that killed 3 soldiers who were deployed to the far-flung village of Andap in Compostela Valley to prepare for rescue operations in the wake of Super Typhoon "Pablo" (international name: Bopha).
"Nasa area sila, nagka-conduct ng rescue operation, tapos tinamaan ng landslide (They were in the area conducting a rescue operation when the landslide hit them)," Lt Col Lyndon Paniza, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division (ID), told Rappler.
Paniza identified the victims as Sgt Maximo Olivares, SSg Olivares, SSg Cabillion and SSg Catague of the Charlie Company of the 66th Infantry Division.
The landslide also left 8 soldiers missing: Sgt Panague, Pfc Armodia, Pfc Batua, Sgt Conejos, Pfc Hingosa, Pfc Hopeda, Pfc Jegapo and Pfc Aranez.
Paniza added that 3 soldiers were injured, including the company commander, Lt Alex Diasita. The injured soldiers were brought to the Davao Regional Hospital, according to Paniza.
He added, the troops were in a "temporary patrol base" in the landslide prone-village when the tragedy happened.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines expressed sympathies to the families of their fallen comrades.
"We console with their families, itong mga ito magka-conduct ng rescue operations pero mismong patrol base nila ang tinamaan (They were supposed to conduct rescue operations but it was their patrol base which was hit)," AFP spokesperson Col Arnulfo Burgos told Rappler.
Continuing rescue operations
Paniza said the main headquarters of the 66th ID, as well as the main building in New Bataan, Compostela Valley were damaged.
"Wasak ang headquarters, pati iyong main building dahil sa flash flood at malakas na hangin (Flash flood and strong winds damaged the headquarters, including the main building)," Paniza said.
Despite the tragedy that befell their comrades, troops in the area continued their search and rescue operations.
"Mandate naman po namin iyong rescue operation. So, tuloy ang rescue operation," Paniza said. (Because rescue operations are part of our mandate, these operations continue.)
100 more soldiers from South Cotabato, Saranggani, and Davao City were deployed to the affected areas to augment troops from the 66th ID.
Paniza said their search and rescue operations have remained land-based.
"Ang probema namin kasi yung lugar, malaki ang ilog, 'di matawid ang lugar para makapag-conduct ng rescue operation (Because the river is wide, it's difficult to cross over to the area and conduct rescue operations)," Paniza said.
“Our troops are now on clearing operations in key routes to allow vehicles to pass through while others are in assistance to local government units in the delivery of relief goods”, Paniza added.
The AFP has already deployed additional helicopters to Davao to help in rescue and relief efforts.
The death toll from Typhoon "Pablo" rose to at least 238 Wednesday, December 5, with hundreds missing and injured, as rescuers battled to reach areas cut off by floods and mudslides, according to authorities.
In a statement, Paniza reported that as of 2:00 pm, December 5, 2,892 households in 9 towns of Davao Oriental were evacuated to safer areas: Tarragona (495), Manay (355), Caraga (170), Baganga (960), Boston (230), Lupon (422), Banaybanay (42), San Isidro (40) and Governor Generoso (178).
Meanwhile, nearly 2,000 individuals were evacuated in the town of Cateel, Davao Oriental. The number of injured people has already reached 148.
In Compostela Valley, 257 families were evacuated - 107 in Pantukan and 150in Mabini. At leat 2,196 individuals in New Bataan were evacuated, 41 were unaccounted for, and 104 were injured. - Rappler.com