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SHAKE AND BLOW
Hopeless search as Philippine quake death toll hits 151
by Staff Writers
Loon, Philippines (AFP) Oct 16, 2013


Philippines struggles to help victims of killer quake
Loon, Philippines (AFP) Oct 17, 2013 - Rescue workers were forced Thursday onto boats and helicopters to help thousands of isolated survivors of a powerful earthquake in the Philippines, as the death toll climbed to 158.

Road access to the worst-hit towns on the central island of Bohol remained cut, two days after the 7.1-magnitude quake destroyed buildings and triggered landslides that engulfed homes, regional civil defence chief Minda Morante said.

"I hope the people will understand. While we want to bring aid to them, our main adversary is accessibility," Morante told AFP.

"We acknowledge that there are still gaps in the emergency response. We cannot address the many needs all at the same time."

Morante said helicopters were being used to evacuate some of the injured as well as resupply the isolated towns with emergency food rations.

Tens of thousands of survivors had taken refuge at government-run shelters in public buildings left standing on Bohol, while others were sleeping in tents beside their homes, terrorised by aftershocks, she added.

The search for 21 missing people had narrowed down to the coastal town of Loon and neighbouring Antequera, which were close to the earthquake's epicentre, Bohol police chief Senior Superintendent Dennis Agustin told AFP.

Search and rescue teams had reached those areas by boat and narrow dirt roads over the past 24 hours, he added.

In the upland farming village of Cantam-is, about 10 kilometres (six miles) from Loon, Salvador Bonito waited on Thursday for help beside a large pile of mud, rocks and debris that buried the house of three of his friends.

"Rescuers from our church tried to reach the buried house, but we had to give up because the ground kept shifting due to aftershocks," Bonito told AFP, adding they had yet to receive outside help.

"We leave it up to God."

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council spokesman Rey Balido said the number of people confirmed killed in the earthquake had risen to 158, up six from Wednesday.

Nearly all the fatalities were on Bohol, one of the country's top tourist destinations that boasts of rolling "Chocolate Hills" and tiny primates called tarsiers.

Eleven people died in Cebu, the country's second-largest city located on a nearby island of the same name, while one person was killed on the island of Siquijor, Balido said.

The quake also toppled centuries-old churches and destroyed more than 2,000 homes, the disaster council said, adding 65,000 people were staying in government-run shelters.

The Philippines lies on the so-called Ring of Fire, a vast Pacific Ocean region where many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.

Survivors of a huge earthquake that killed more than 150 people in the Philippines rummaged hopelessly Wednesday through ruins for friends and relatives, as rescue workers struggled to reach isolated communities.

The 7.1-magnitude earthquake smashed the central island of Bohol on Tuesday morning, ripping apart bridges, tearing down centuries-old churches and triggering landslides that engulfed entire homes.

The number of people confirmed killed on Bohol and neighbouring islands climbed from 93 on Tuesday to 151 on Wednesday night as the full scale of the disaster became clear, and there were no tales of miracle rescues.

At Loon, a small coastal town of about 40,000 people just 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the epicentre of the earthquake, shocked survivors used their bare hands to scour through the rubble of their homes.

"We're trying our best to keep hopes up, but in this desperate situation there is nothing much we can do beyond giving comforting words," local priest Father Tomas Balakayo told AFP as he stood in front of Loon's destroyed limestone church.

"I try to be strong but this is terrible, what have these people done to deserve this?"

Loon farmer Serafin Megallen said he dug with his hands, brick-by-brick, to retrieve his mother-in-law and cousin from the rubble of their home on Tuesday.

"They were alive but they died of their injuries three hours later. There was no rescue that came, we had to rely on neighbours for help," he told AFP.

With destroyed bridges, ripped-open roads and power outages fragmenting the island of about one million people, authorities said it had proved difficult for police and government rescue workers to reach isolated communities on Wednesday.

Loon was one of the most badly affected communities, with 42 people confirmed killed there so far, according to Bohol police chief Senior Superintendent Dennis Agustin.

But for most of Wednesday the only people involved in the search and rescue efforts were local residents and police, with only a few rescue workers arriving by boat, and no heavy equipment that could have plied through the rubble.

Four people were believed to have been inside Loon's Our Lady of Light church when it collapsed, according to Balakayo, the priest.

He said they remained unaccounted for, but locals had given up hope they were still alive.

In front of the rubble of the church an improvised altar had been erected with a lone statue of the Virgin Mary, where teary residents stopped by to make the sign of the cross.

Ten churches, many of them dating back centuries to Spanish colonial rule of the Philippines, were destroyed or badly damaged on Bohol and the neighbouring island of Cebu.

Video footage broadcast by AFP on Wednesday showed an elderly woman narrowly avoiding being crushed by the collapsing bell tower of the Philippines' oldest church, Cebu's Basilica Minore de Santo Nino (Basilica of the Child Jesus).

Most of the deaths were on Bohol, which is one of the most popular tourist islands in the Philippines because of its beautiful beaches, rolling "Chocolate Hills" and tiny "tarsier" primates.

The number of confirmed fatalities on Bohol jumped to 141 as authorities in isolated towns restored communications and reported dozens more deaths, the head of the province's information office, Augustus Escobia, told AFP.

Nine people died on Cebu province, home to the Philippines' second-biggest city of the same name, while another person was confirmed killed on nearby Siquijor island.

Survivors were further tormented on Wednesday by incessant aftershocks, including some exceeding 5.1, according to national disaster authorities.

President Benigno Aquino visited Bohol and Cebu to oversee rescue efforts, and sought to reassure survivors as the number of aftershocks surpassed 800.

"The bottom line is we do not have to fear that something stronger than... (Tuesday's quake) is coming," Aquino said in a nationally televised meeting with cabinet members at Tagbilaran, Bohol's capital.

The Philippines lies on the so-called Ring of Fire, a vast Pacific Ocean region where many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.

The deadliest recorded natural disaster in the Philippines occurred in 1976, when a tsunami triggered by a 7.9-magnitude earthquake devastated the Moro Gulf on the southern island of Mindanao.

Between 5,000 and 8,000 people were killed, according to official estimates.

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Related Links
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SHAKE AND BLOW
93 dead as quake hits Philippine tourist islands
Cebu, Philippines (AFP) Oct 15, 2013
A powerful earthquake killed at least 93 people in the Philippines Tuesday as it generated landslides that buried homes, triggered stampedes of terrified people, and destroyed historic churches. Fifteen of the confirmed fatalities were in Cebu, the country's second most important city and a gateway to some of its most beautiful beaches, the national disaster agency reported. The 7.1-magn ... read more


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