Negros quake death toll could breach 100-mark

David Yu Santos
Memorial to be set up in landslide site

MEMORIAL. Local officials in Negros Oriental plan to stop retrieval operations for dozens of missing residents, more than a week after the February 6 earthquake.

MANILA, Philippines – Retrieval operations for dozens of missing residents in Negros Oriental following the February 6 quake are likely to be halted “within the week,” with the number of the dead breaching the 100-mark, according to a government official.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported that 43 cadavers have been retrieved, while the number of injured victims is at 54. At least 66 others are still missing.

NDRRMC executive director Benito Ramos told Rappler that based on his consultations with local officials of Guihulngan City and other affected towns, the search operations for missing residents, particularly those who were buried during landslides, will have to be discontinued “not later than this week.”

In Guihulngan City, Mayor Ernesto Reyes said that he has endorsed a resolution passed by the local legislative council on Monday, February 13, declaring the site of a landslide incident in Sitio Moog, Barangay Planas, as a “memorial ground.”

There at least 18 residents in believed to have been buried in the Sitio Moog landslide,” Reyes said in Filipino.

Based on the city resolution, the search and retrieval operations will have to continue for 3 more days, before it will be “put to stop” and a “huge cross with the names of the missing” will be erected on the landslide site to serve as a memorial for the trapped victims.

Either Wednesday or Thursday, we will formally declare to stoppage of the retrieval operations,” Reyes said, saying consideration has to be made for last-minute appeals of the families of the missing persons.

Of the 66 people reported missing by NDRRMC, 27 of them are from Guihulngan City, while 39 are from La Libertad town.

More than 100

By the end of the week, it is likely that the earthquake death toll will reach more than 100,” Ramos said. “Until we get the cue from the local government, the military and other search teams will continue to do retrieval efforts.”

UNSAFE. The public works department has advised local officials in earthquake-affected areas in Negros Oriental to refrain from re-opening damaged government facilities due to dangers of recurring aftershocks.

The NDRRMC also reported that more than P365-M worth of government infrastructure was damaged, while almost 11,000 houses were also either partially or totally destroyed due to the 6.9-magnitude quake that struck Central Visayas exactly a week ago.

Mayor Reyes said that rehabilitation efforts in Guihulngan will have to begin once the situation has normalized.

Our rehabilitation will start at least a week after these tremors have fully stopped,” Reyes said. “Up to this time, we continue to experiences tremors, making damaged infrastructure and homes unsafe. We still can’t occupy them.”

According to Reyes, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has recommended against the re-opening of the city hall and the main public market because doing so may pose harm to the public. “We are strictly following whatever the DPWH advises us.”

Local officials remain focused on relief operations as hard-hit areas remain “in dire need” of food, medicines and clean water amid donations coming from government aid agencies, private organizations and foreign groups, Reyes said. –

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