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DAVAO ORIENTAL, Philippines – Davao Region officials remained hopeful that more people would be rescued from ground zero of a mining village in Masara, Davao de Oro, that was hit by the deadly February 6 landslide.
Davao de Oro Governor Dorothy Gonzaga said in a press conference on Saturday afternoon, February 10, that the successful rescue of a 3-year-old girl on Friday morning, February 9, made them “hopeful that there will be more lives to be saved.”
“The 3-year-old girl is now stable but we rushed her to the Davao Regional Medical Center (in nearby Tagum City) due to some inflammation in her legs,” Gonzaga said.
While the governor was speaking, an earthquake also hit on Saturday.
“Horrible! That is a strong earthquake and it [lasted] long!” she exclaimed.
Ednar Dayanghirang, regional director of the Office of the Civil Defense in the Davao Region, lifted up their situation to God: “We surrender to God if He wills it.”
In recent weeks, torrential rains battered Davao de Oro, triggering floods and landslides. On Tuesday, February 6, a landslide in the mining village of Masara buried homes, three buses, and a jeepney.
As of Saturday noon, 28 were declared dead, 77 were still missing, while 32 have been rescued, according to Maco town’s disaster risk reduction and management office.
The continued earthquakes and rains, however, stalled rescue operations in Masara and other parts of the Davao Region affected by the calamities.
Noel Duarte, director of the Department of the Interior and Local Government in Davao de Oro, told Rappler that their provincial government may soon shift from rescue operations to retrieval of dead bodies buried by the landslide.
“We will be meeting this afternoon with the governor, Dorothy Gonzaga, and we will decide whether to shift to retrieval operation. By shifting to retrieval operation, we will be using bulldozers and backhoes, which [are] really very harmful for those who are maybe alive, being trapped inside the rubble,” Duarte said.
Meanwhile, Gonzaga vowed to strictly enforce a no-build-zone policy in Masara. The provincial government has started looking for relocation sites for the displaced villagers.
In Masara alone, 55 houses were buried, including the barangay hall. The local government said the landslide spanned almost nine hectares and displaced 5,290 villagers, who are currently staying in various evacuation centers.
“I told the village chair of Masara in jest that he will lose his barangay as they will be relocated to other villages,” Duarte said.
Meanwhile, Beverly Mae Brebante, the geosciences division chief of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Davao, said that the Masara village was “outside the active mine site of Apex Mining, and falls on a fault line.” – Rappler.com