Philippine president visits quake-damaged areas
PHILIPPINE President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday visited a central province damaged by a 6.8- magnitude earthquake amid fading hopes of finding survivors from at least 71 people missing in the calamity.
Aquino assured residents of Negros Oriental province, 570 kilometres south of Manila, that the government was working to restore power and water services damaged in Monday’s quake that killed at least 26 people.
“The government has the resources to help return the situation to normal as much as possible,” he said.
“The many government agencies and non-government organisations are working together to reduce the difficulty being experienced by the victims.” Rescuers were digging through a thick layer of soil, debris and broken tree branches that crashed into two villages in Guihulngan City and nearby La Libertad town in search for at least 71 missing residents.
But civil defence chief Benito Ramos said he feared that no survivors would be found.
“I am hoping against hope but the chances are very slim.
The landslides were huge, you’d really think no one would survive there.” Ramos said the official death toll from the quake was 26, but an army commander in the province said the number of dead was 48 and up to 92 were missing.
Manolo Magalso, a 33-yearold farmer, was in shock two days after the side of a mountain collapsed in the village of Solonggon in La Libertad and buried about 60 houses, including his.
“I was ploughing my field when the ground shook very hard,” he said. “I saw the mountain break and collapse on the houses. My wife and three children were inside our home then.” Magalso’s family was among more than 40 believed missing and feared dead in the landslide.
Hundreds of soldiers, policemen and volunteers were digging through debris and mud but had not found any survivors.
In the village of Planas in Guihulngan City, where about 40 houses were buried in a separate landslide, the body of a girl was found late Tuesday.
The parents had hoped she was still alive because they received mobile phone text messages on Monday evening to early Tuesday. “She asked us to hurry and she said she could see some light,” the mother said on television.
Guihulngan City Mayor Ernesto Reyes said Aquino gave him a cheque for 3.3 million pesos (78,570 dollars) to help in providing relief goods to the victims.
“This will help sustain families for about 10 days,” he said.
Reyes said the president asked him to allow shops to reopen so residents could buy supplies amid reports of looting, but he stressed that engineers must first certify that the buildings are safe.
“I just want to make sure that no one will be in danger,” he said. “We are still experiencing strong aftershocks so we have to be sure.” More than 1,000 aftershocks had been recorded by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology since Monday. The strongestmeasured magnitude 6.2
Thousands of residents in affected areas were sleeping outside for fear that their houses would collapse in the aftershocks. Some hospitals also moved patients outdoors overnight.