Rescuers hope for survivors in Leyte landslides as hundreds still missing

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 17 2022 09:21 AM | Updated as of Apr 17 2022 09:42 AM

This aerial photo shows the collapsed mountain side and buried houses in the village of Bunga, Baybay town, Leyte province, in southern Philippines on April 12, 2022, a day after a landslide slammed into the village due to heavy rains brought about by tropical storm Megi. Bobbie Alota, AFP
This aerial photo shows the collapsed mountain side and buried houses in the village of Bunga, Baybay town, Leyte province, in southern Philippines on April 12, 2022, a day after a landslide slammed into the village due to heavy rains brought about by tropical storm Megi. Bobbie Alota, AFP

MANILA — Authorities are still hoping to find survivors from the landslides that hit communities in Leyte province, triggered by rains brought by tropical storm Agaton, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said Sunday as hundreds remain missing.

NDRRMC Spokesperson Mark Timbal said some local rescuers have yet to shift to retrieval operations because they supposedly continue to hear voices of people buried in landslides.

"Mayroon tayong mangilan-ngilang naririnig na balita na mayroon pa daw pong naririnig 'yong mga tao doon sa area kaya tuloy pa rin 'yong search and rescue [operation]," Timbal told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.

(We still receive news that the rescuers still hear voices in the area. That's why they still continue with the search and rescue operation.)

The death toll from landslides and flooding triggered by Agaton stood at 167, Timbal said.

He added that 110 people remain missing, 104 of whom come from Abuyog town and Baybay City in Leyte.

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But Baybay Mayor Jose Carlos Cari said rescuers in his city have already shifted to retrieval operations, particularly in Barangay Kantagnos.

"Ninety percent" of the village, with about 156 households or a population of nearly 600, was buried in the landslide, Cari said.

"Naka-on foot na sila doon... Nakita nila na wala nang makitang buhay pa, walang maingay. So retrieval na lang talaga," Cari told TeleRadyo.

(Rescuers are already on foot at the site... They saw that there were no signs of life, no noise. So what they're really doing is a retrieval operation.)

Rescuers are unable to bring in heavy equipment in the village because it remained inaccessible due to the landslide, he said.

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For now, landslide survivors will need to rely on the government for food and shelter after losing their livelihoods to the disaster, the local chief executive added.

"Minamadali natin 'yong temporary shelter para malipatan kaagad nila," Cari said.

(We are speeding up the construction of temporary shelter so they can move there immediately.)

NDRRMC's Timbal said residents were advised to evacuate ahead of the storm but the landslides were "beyond expectations," reaching communities that were not in danger zones.

"We may need to adjust our worst case scenario assessment," Timbal said.

Water

Residents of Baybay City also complained of the lack of clean water after the storm clogged water sources with mud.

Some hotels in the city have halted operations while restaurants use disposable plates and utensils due to the water problem.

But Cari said authorities have restored 2 water sources in the city, adding that the third would be cleaned within the day.

— With a report from Sharon Evite