Government halts retrieval of Usman fatalities
Government personnel retrieve a body from the site of a landslide in Barangay Patitinan in Sangay, Camarines Sur before the search was called off yesterday. Image courtesy of Liezel Macatangay, spokesperson for the Camarines Sur provincial disaster risk reduction and management council, and PO3 Nora Prieto.

Government halts retrieval of Usman fatalities

Cet Dematera (The Philippine Star) - January 7, 2019 - 12:00am

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines — Though at least 15 people were still missing, retrieval operations for the victims of Tropical Depression Usman in Sagñay town in Camarines Sur were terminated yesterday after it became too risky due to the occasional light to moderate downpour and gale warning prevailing in the province.

“It has already turned very risky and life-threatening should our retrieval teams continue their efforts to dig up the bodies in the vast muddy and sticky landslide rubble in Barangay Patitinan in Sagñay town,” Camarines Sur Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) spokesperson Liezl Macatangay told The STAR.

The PDRRMC had counted at least 70 bodies – 52 from landslides and 18 from drowning – while 15 and two were still missing in Sagñay and Buhi towns, respectively, both in Camarines Sur, as of noon yesterday.

Sagñay Municipal DRRMC chief Mar Jun Felipe said they had halted retrieval efforts after a body was found floating in the sea.

“After we found a floating body in the sea, we stood down with our retrieval operations. Besides, the responders are already exhausted and experiencing stress and extreme fatigue,” Felipe told The STAR.

Macatangay said at least 2,085 families or 9,155 persons affected by flooding and landslides remain at evacuation centers across Camarines Sur.

Due to massive flooding spawned by Usman last week, she said 35 of the 36 towns of Camarines Sur were affected, adding that some 204,098 families were affected by floods while 8,885 families were displaced by landslides.

Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO) chief Cedric Daep said retrieval operations in Albay are stopped during bad weather and resume when it turns fair. At least four persons remained missing in the municipality of Tiwi.

Daep said they would install again rain-gauges in the flood and landslide-prone portions of Tiwi and other similarly situated towns in Albay.

He added that he would conduct seminars about disaster response and mitigation to heads of MDRRMCs who are newly hired.

“Some of the heads of MDRRMCs are newly hired and still lack sufficient knowledge in disaster management. We need to capacitate them,” Daep told The STAR.

Daep likewise mentioned that he would also request the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to come up with hazard-mapping that specifically identifies the high-risk, medium-risk and low-risk areas to serve as their guide for actions before, during and after a disaster.

“Hazard maps should be detailed. If a place is declared to be high-risk, then, we will recommend relocation; if medium-risk, we will order evacuation and low-risk, (for residents) to be vigilant,” he explained.

Albay broke its long-standing record of “zero casualty” made possible by the preemptive evacuation policy during the incumbency of congressman Joey Salceda as then Albay governor, when at least 15 people died and four remain missing in the province due to landslide and floods triggered by Usman and a low-pressure area last week.

Usman death toll hits 126

The death toll of Usman, which battered the country, particularly the Visayas region as 2018 ended, has now reached 126.

The latest information from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) released yesterday said 75 were injured and 26 remain missing.

The fatalities, injuries and missing persons were from various provinces in Region 5 or the Bicol region, Region 8 covering Eastern Visayas, and the Mindoro-Marinduque-Romblon-Palawan area.

Only eight of the 126 reported deaths and 42 of the 75 reported injuries have been confirmed while the rest, the NDRRMC noted, are still subject for validation or verification.

The deaths and injuries were caused by weather-related events like flooding, landslides and other accidents or incidents attributed to heavy rainfall.

Data also showed that Usman totally and partially damaged 9,554 houses in the affected regions including the Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon area.

Damage to agriculture and infrastructure has been placed at P4.256 billion – P956 million for agriculture and P3.3 billion for infrastructure.

A total of 150,877 families or 675,777 individuals from 952 barangays were affected by Usman, according to the NDRRMC.

As of yesterday, 13,202 families or 57,945 persons are still being housed in 125 evacuation centers. – With Michael Punongbayan, Louise Maureen Simeon, Helen Flores, Mayen Jaymalin, Romina Cabrera

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