By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — In Natonin, Mountain Province, volunteers and government officials spent the All Saints’ and All Souls’ holiday retrieving dead bodies and searching for missing persons at a massive landslide that dragged the office building of the Department Public Works and Highways (DPWH) downhill.
Natonin Councilor Rafael Bulawe said like many Natonin families, rescuers would have been paying their respects to their dead kin on All Soul’s Day. He said they do not have a cemetery because they bury their dead in their backyards.
“It is customary for us to bury our dead in our own property… [But] I was not able to visit my mother today as I have a duty to fulfill. I believe she would understand,” he said.
Bulawe was at the search, rescue and retrieval operations at a massive landslide that dragged down DPWH-Mountain Province second district engineering office, along with 31 people who took shelter there when typhoon Rosita hit Luzon.
Volunteers rescued 4 survivors: Joventino Lammawen, Jupiter Pacyod, Fritzgerald Lumpanga and Innocencio Gollingay, according to the Mountain Province Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MPDRRMO).
As of November 2, rescuers also retrieved the remains of Benito Longan, Junjun Laron, Elberto Cano, Joel Arevalo, Gregorio Castro, John Tinmakcheg, Juanita Longan, Verginia Catet Malucay and Jerry Epan while they are still searching for 15 more persons.
Ten others managed to scamper away before the DPWH building was pulled down the ravine.
Officials did not realize their building at Natonin town in Mt. Province was at risk until Tuesday afternoon, October 30.
Lawyer Edward Chumawar, head of the Mt. Province disaster risk reduction and management office said boulders and debris from about 500 meters above, the top of the mountain rolled down towards the DPWH building and other structures, which fell about 5 kilometers down to the Sifu River on the afternoon of October 30 at the height of Rosita battering Luzon.
Most of the people inside the DPWH building were laborers who came fron Aguinaldo, Ifugao, Tabuk City in Kalinga province, Baguio City, and the provinces of Abra, La Union and Isabela. Eight other local residents moved to the building when Rosita blew into the town.
The workers were there for the construction of two annex buildings and raise the main building to five stories.
Around 18 people died in Mt. Province, Ifugao and Kalinga before Rosita exited, nine of them at the roadside erosion in Natonin.
In a separate Natonin landslide at Sitio Imisan in Barangay Alunogan, the lifeless body of Joeffrey Nagaowa Salangey was retrieved at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, while a drowning victim, Mike Saleo-an, was reported also in Barangay Banawel.
Near the famous rice terraces of Banaue town in Ifugao province, a landslide buried a 48-year-old man and his three daughters. The Ifugao disaster response office said the 1:30 p.m. landslide in Barangay Batad killed Baltazar Pinnay, and his daughters Rydbell, 8, Rhezel, 10, and Rexibelle, 12, whose remains were recovered by their beighbors at 7 p.m. Pinnay’s wife and four other children survived the calamity, but they will bury their dead today, Thursday (Nov. 1) as dictated by Ifugao custom for tragic deaths, according to a relative.
Also in Banaue, first responders retrieved the lifeless body of a backhoe operator who was clearing a landslide when a second erosion swept the excavator down a ravine at Gohang village. On Wednesday morning, a woman in her 20s was fished out of a river in Aguinaldo town.
At 5:26 p.m. on Tuesday, 5-year-old Eurich Jane Galo was killed by a landslide at Lubuagan town in Kalinga province. Aaron Galo, 4, and Maribel Giwagiw, 19, survived the mudslide that buried their home in Barangay Mabilong and are being treated at the Kalinga District Hospital.
Tanudan municipal officials said massive landslides also buried 15 hectares of rice fields.
Lubuagan also suffered floods when Chico River swelled up, submerging Dacalan Elementary School and Lubo Elementary School. Initial reports said at least five classrooms of the schools have been totally washed out, including a library.
At Lacub town in Abra, Vedancio Vicencio Villaruz, 58, was declared missing after strong current swept him downstream while crossing a footbridge at Poblacion village.
Damaged roads and poor communication lines prevented families and local officials from informing various government agencies about the disasters until Tuesday night.
Among the main roads closed are the Madduang section of the Apayao-Ilocos Norte Road, and the Poblacion and Maratang sections of the Claveria-Calanasan-Cabugao Road.
Along the Halsema Highway (the Baguio-Bontoc Road which is the main route for farnmers shipping upland vegetables to Manila), landsldies obstructed the Sinipsip section of Buguias town in Benguet province, and the Busa section of the road along Sabangan town in Mt. Province.
A landslide at Tidang Village in Nueva Vizcaya’s Kayapa town shutdown the Benguet-Nueva Vizcaya Road. The alternate routes – the Bokod-Kabayan Road and Bokod-Baguio Road – are also closed.
The Bontoc-Kalinga Road is closed due to a landslide at Tinglayan town.
Travelers bound for Baguio City during the long All Saint’s Day weekend are advised to take Marcos Highway and Naguilan Road, while work crews repair a collapsed bridge at Camp 1 along Kennon Road.
Work crews are racing to open roads leading to Natonin, so more provisions can be hauled to communities reeling from landslides that claimed lives.
Governor Bonifacio Lacwasan Jr. on Friday said the landslides blocking provincial and municipal roads have isolated Natonin since Tuesday, October 30.
But the engineering teams from the DPWH have punched through debris from the capital town, Bontoc, to Barlig town, which is about 60 kilometers away from Barangay Poblacion in Natonin, he said.
Blocked roads from Paracelis town have also been partly opened until Barangay Magnaw, which is seven kilometers away from the Natonin town center, the governor added.
Food packs were flown in by helicopter on Thursday, All Saint’s Day, and 200 liters of fuel for heavy equipment are scheduled to be airlifted to Natonin from Isabela province, Lacwasan said.
“We have not yet started rehabilitating areas damaged by Typhoon Ompong [in September], and then Rosita struck so we are still under a state of calamity,” he said.
Lacwasan joined President Rodrigo Duterte inspect the damages wrought by Rosita by helicopter after briefing him about Natonin’s situation in Isabela on Thursday afternoon. “The Presidnt told me, ‘Ang tindi naman ng damage nito (The storem left serious damages here),” he said.
Three members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographic Unit (CAFGU) were among those confirmed dead while two others are still not found in the Banawel landslide, the military here said on Friday, November 1.
Leobel Orchilion, Linang Pallichang and Jonathan Ngilin, all assigned at the CAFGU Auxiliary Company in the Ifugao town of Aguinaldo, took sidejobs as laborers constructing annexes at the DPWH municipal compound.
Auxiliary members perform their duties for 15 days each month, and the CAFGU members working on the DPWH project were technically on leave, according to Lt.Col. Rembert Baylosis, commander of the 77th Infantry Battalion.
Lacwasan said rescue operations are also being undertaken in Barlig town, for two missing individuals in Barangays Lias and Kalew. # nordis.net