Death toll from Batanes earthquakes rises to 9


ITBAYAT, Batanes – The body of the lone missing person from the July 27 earthquakes here have been retrieved from the rubble, bringing the total death toll from the disaster to 9.

Disaster responders found the body of Edwin Ponce, 32, in a collapsed cave-like structure on the outskirts of Itbayat town.

Ponce is expected to be buried along with two other fatalities from the tremors on Monday afternoon, July 29. 

The temblors left the town inaccessible for many hours afterward, and social workers from the government said the bodies of the first 5 fatalities had to be buried right away for lack of embalming chemicals.

This added to the trauma of the local Ivatan people, whom social workers said are religious and very observant of their traditions, especially rituals for their dead.

Ponce was the last person unaccounted for after the quakes, and the local government said retrieval operations have now officially ceased.

The first earthquake struck Batanes early Saturday morning, July 27, at 4:16 am. There were aftershocks recorded, as well as a stronger magnitude 5.9 earthquake past 7 am, which struck east of Itbayat and registered stronger intensities.

President Rodrigo Duterte visited Batanes on Sunday, July 28, and vowed to give P40 million to the province, based on the initial estimate of the Department of Public Works and Highways. –

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.