10 bodies recovered, 14 rescued in Mt. Province landslide

BAGUIO CITY — 10 bodies were recovered, and 14 people were so far rescued as of 4 p.m. Wednesday from a two-story building of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Natonin town, Mountain Province that was buried in a landslide at the height of Typhoon Rosita on Tuesday.

Rescue and retrieval operations started in the morning and the survivors and dead bodies were found by midday, Natonin Councilor Rafael Bulawe said.

Bulawe said it was past 1:30 p.m., when the rescuers found all 14 survivors from rubbles of the building of the DPWH District 2 Engineering office at Sitio Har'rang in Barangay Banawel.

10 dead bodies were retrieved as of 4 p.m.

Bulawe said two persons were the first to be rescued. Juventino Gallad Lammawen and Fritz Lumpanga were rescued near the landslide area.

According to Lammawen, while he was closing the main gate of the DPWH compound at around 4 p.m. on Tuesday he noticed the soil on the mountain starting to move which prompted him to jump into a concrete culvert to seek refuge.

In a telephone interview with Jonnel Emengga, chief of the DPWH-MP District 2 Planning and Design Division, an eyewitness had it that the mountain across the DPWH building eroded around 4 p.m., eventually “carrying” the whole two-story concrete structure and everything around it.

Emengga said the DPWH building was supposed to be empty, with only the two guards on duty. He said probably the guards allowed some residents to seek refuge at the height of the typhoon.

Bulawe said the Bureau of Fire personnel, DPWH workers, and residents were the first to help in the search and rescue operations.

"It is difficult to reach the place due to several landslides and mudflows on the road, which is about two kilometers away from the Poblacion,” Bulawe said in Ilocano.

He said it took a while for the rescue and retrieval operation to start, as flood water and landslide mud on the way were waist-deep.

Bulawe said members of the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office were doing road clearing operations around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, when the incident happened. He explained there was no signal in the area that is why they only learned of the incident at 7 p.m. when they returned to the MDRRMC office at Poblacion.

In a report, the Mountain Province Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office said all the three buildings in the DPWH compound were buried in the landslide.

It was learned that those who sought refuge at the building were construction workers working for the completion of the DPWH buildings.

Based on initial reports, around 31 people composed of 20 laborers, one project engineer, two to three security guards, and six to seven evacuees were in the DPWH building. (PNA)

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