Aerial, sea search continues for ‘Pablo’ survivors

The Search and Rescue Task Force continues efforts to look for 'Pablo' survivors by land, air and sea

DEVASTATION. A man carries construction supplies across a road in the middle of Cateel, Davao Oriental, in the aftermath of typhoon Pablo (Bopha), December 10, 2012. Photo by Karlos Manlupig.

MANILA, Philippines – The search for the missing continues, as the government intensified its search and rescue efforts for the over 800 who are reported missing from Typhoon “Pablo.”

Aside from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Bureau of Fishing and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), volunteer civilians and the fishing industry have come together to search for survivors by land, air and sea.

Lt Gen Jorge Segovia, who is in charge of the Search and Rescue Task Force under President Benigno Aquino III’s directive, said on Wednesday, December 12, they are making progress in their operations. Segovia is the commander of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command based in Davao City.

Segovia said the Air Force has searched 75% of the area that they had been assigned to, and that relief goods have been dropped in isolated communities located by pilots.

Captain Robert Empedrad of the Philippine Navy, who is in charge of maritime search, also said that they have been successful in saving victims stranded at sea.

“As of this moment, we are able to recover already 35 bodies at sea,” he said.

“The good news is that we also coordinated with the Indonesians because when we assessed the situation there is a possibility that some of our missing fishermen drifted to the Indonesian waters,” he added.

Segovia also emphasized that they are not likely to end efforts anytime soon.

“We have not set a deadline for the end of the rescue effort. We are continuing to do our best to try to find survivors in this disaster,” he said. “The relief operations will continue for a long, long time and, from what I saw, the rehabilitation will take a much longer time.”

Searching the sea

Of the reported missing, about 300 are said to be fishermen.

In addition to local ships that are scouring the area, Empedrad said the Indonesian government has also heeded their request to send one ship to the area south of Central Mindanao where they believe some of the missing fishermen may have drifted to. He said they have also received approval from Indonesia to conduct aerial searches there.

Empedrad admitted that he is not an expert on how long humans can stay lost at sea without dying, but was optimistic after the first set of survivors were found.

“It depends if, when they (got) lost, there were provisions that they had in their possession. But most of the rescued, recovered at sea have their own provisions. So they were able to survive because they had food to eat. But when we recovered them, they were somewhat injured. They were dehydrated,” he said.

No riots

Segovia said they are using trucks, Navy ships and helicopters to deliver relief goods to far-flung communities, especially those isolated by broken bridges.

He also denied reports of chaos and violence in the disaster areas.

“Some of the rumors of mobs and rioting, and the lack of so many things (are) hardly true. I’ve been there, I was there during the first delivery in Banganga (Davao Oriental),” he said.

“I saw the relief goods on trucks. Except for minor incident involving the locals, the governor of Davao Oriental is very much in command of the situation.”

Segovia also said that most of the provinces “are doing well” in terms of receiving relief and healthcare.

He commended the victims for their fighting spirit, and continued to ask for more donations to help in recovery efforts.

“I would say that the people of these devastated areas are very resilient, they are very patient. And, of course, as we go through with this disaster, we need more delivery of relief goods for us to assure our people that we are attending to them,” he said.

The latest death toll of typhoon Pablo is at over 700. –

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