Scores still missing after Agaton landslides, gov't mulls stopping risky rescue

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 18 2022 01:30 PM | Updated as of Apr 18 2022 02:09 PM

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 — Over 100 people remained missing after tropical depression Agaton spawned landslides last week, the disaster agency said, as authorities on Monday mulled stopping rescue operations that were endangering emergency personnel. 

Agaton has left at least 172 dead and 110 others missing, according to an 8 a.m. report by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. 

But NDRRMC spokesperson Mark Timbal, quoting local authorities, gave a higher tally for missing individuals in landslide-hit areas in Leyte province: around 100 residents in Abuyog town, and about 70 in Baybay City. 

Authorities in these areas are expected to decide later in the day whether or not to stop rescue operations, he said. 

“May areas po talaga na iyong ating mga eksperto po ay nag-aalala kapag ipinagpatuloy ng ating mga search and rescue teams iyong kanilang isinasagawa dahil gumuguho pa rin po ang lupa as of this point,” Timbal said in a public briefing. 

(There are areas where our experts are worried should our search and rescue teams continue what they are doing because the ground is still unstable.) 

“Although kami dito po ay hindi pa rin bumibitiw sa pag-asa na marami pa ring mari-rescue, we leave it po doon sa ating mga kasamahan on the ground para mapagdesisyunan po nila ito kasi inaalala din natin ang kanila pong kaligtasan,” added the official. 

(Although we are not giving up hope that more people will be rescued, we leave it up to our colleagues on the ground to decide on this because we are also thinking about their safety.) 

At least 102 people have been rescued after landslides smashed farming and fishing communities, Timbal said. 

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Video courtesy of PTV 

Agaton, which dumped heavy rain over several days, forced some 158,000 into evacuation centers and around 188,000 to take shelter with friends or relatives, the NDRRMC said. 

The storm damaged some 10,400 houses and P250 million worth of crops, livestock, farming equipment, and fisheries, Timbal said. 

Government has distributed around P50 million worth of cash aid, food packs, meals, tents, equipment, and medical supplies, he said. 

“Hindi po overnight procedure itong recovery and rehabilitation. Pero makakaasa po ang ating mga kababayan na… lahat po ng proseso ng pagbangon, daglian pong isinasagawa ng pamahalaan po ‘yan, lalo na po iyong mga kailangan serbisyong mga kababayan natin,” he added. 

(The recovery and rehabilitation procedure will not happen overnight. But our compatriots can expect that government is doing all recovery efforts promptly, especially the services that the people need.) 

Agaton struck at the beginning of Holy Week, one of the most important holidays in the mainly Catholic nation, when thousands travel to visit relatives.

It came 4 months after a super typhoon devastated swaths of the country, killing more than 400 and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

The Philippines, ranked among the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change, is hit by an average of 20 storms every year.

— With a report from Agence France-Presse