OPAV honors Urduja volunteers

By Jessa Mae O. Sotto January 11,2018

The Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) honored volunteers, including four miners from Carmen Copper Corporation (CCC), who risked life and limb in a search and rescue operation in Biliran town shortly before Christmas day after the devastation wrought by Typhoon Urduja last December 17.

In four days of intensive operation, the volunteers from CCC, the Toledo City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CDRRMO), and Barangay DAS, Toledo City managed to retrieve the bodies of four out of 27 people trapped in a landslide in Barangay Lucsoon, Naval, Biliran.

The bodies recovered included that of a 10-year -old child.

The search and rescue operation was led by Engineer Victor Randolf Santillan, general foreman of Carmen Copper Corp.

“It was a very stressful experience for us knowing that they all looked up to us to be able to solve the situation,” Santillan said in Cebuano.

Santillan recalled that when the volunteers arrived in the area three days after the landslide, they knew that there would only be a 10 percent chance that the victims would survive.

“There were big rocks that trapped the bodies and also it was muddy,” he said.

The victims, who were trapped by falling boulders, were attending a despedida (farewell) party for a seafarer.

“The families of the victims pleaded that even if their loved ones were dead, at least we would retrieve their bodies,” said Santillan.

Santillan narrated that it was very difficult to retrieve the bodies of all the landslide victims without having to sacrifice their own safety.

“It was very difficult to decide on something that could also affect us. We all wanted to return safe and not just set out to rescue others only to be needing rescue later,” he explained.

OPAV Secretary Michael Dino also recognized members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Central Command (AFP-Centcom) who responded during the deadly typhoon whose powerful winds and heavy rains ravaged Biliran, one the country’s smallest provinces.

“Without you it will be totally difficult for us to do our job,” Dino said.

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