‘Decent burial’ for the missing, closure for victims’ families

By: Morexette B. Erram, Rosalie O. Abatayo September 27,2018 - 11:50 PM


THE relatives of Alfie Yapac have lost hope he would still be found alive, eight days after the massive landslide buried his home in Sitio Tagaytay, Barangay Tinaan in Naga City.

But on Thursday, Rosemarie Yapac sought the help of the Incident Management Team (IMT) to recover the body of Alfie, whom they believed has been trapped inside his house still protruding from the rubble of the collapsed earth.

“Wala na mi naglaom nga buhi pa ang akong uyoan. Ang amoa lang nga mahipos namo siya og tarong mao nga gusto unta mi nga makuha siya ngadto,” said 19-year-old Rosemarie.

(We are no longer hoping that my uncle is still alive. We just want to give him a decent burial.)

In a drone-captured video shown by the rescue team, Alfie’s house was seen hanging about 60 meters away from where it used to stand. Its dirty kitchen hangs on the edge of the mountain that seemed to have been sliced by a violent force.

Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) head Baltazar Tribunalo explained to Rosemarie and her other relatives who went to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) that they tried at least three times to penetrate Sitio Tagaytay, but failed because of the danger posed by the continuous movements of the soil and rocks.

Tribunalo explained that even if they would be able to enter the area, their movements might cause the big cracks in the mountain to collapse and cause further soil erosion.

“Dili ingon nga di mi moadto pero ato pod tan-awon nga dili madelikado para sa atong mga responders (It was not that we didn’t want to go there but we also needed to ensure that it would not place our responders at risk),” Tribunalo told Rosemarie’s family.

Still too risky

But having understood the desire of the grieving families who wanted to recover the bodies of their missing loved ones, Tribunalo decided to attempt to get to the house of Alfie after meeting with the Yapacs.

Sometime past 1 p.m., a team of responders was went to Sitio Tagaytay to attempt, for the fourth time, to retrieve those who were buried under soil and debris in the area.

The team was able to penetrate the area near Alfie’s house but was unable to proceed with the operation because of the instability of the ground.

According to Rosemarie, Alfie was at his house on the night of September 19 while the other family members were evacuated by Apo Land and Quarry Corporation (ALQC), following the reported cracks in the area.

Alfie and other men in the community stayed behind to look after their belongings.

One of the big cracks in the mountains of Sitio Tagaytay, according to Rosemarie, lie directly beneath Alfie’s house.

Geraldine Lapitan, one of the residents of Sitio Tagaytay who survived the killer landslide, said Alfie was among those who had been very vocal about his concern over the huge fissures.

Lapitan added they knew something bad would happen as a result of the cracks.

Lapitan took videos of the crack that stretched across the mountain and posted them on Facebook weeks before the landslide to raise awareness about their concern weeks before the landslide happened.

On September 19, Lapitan said he and his family began looking for a place to rent because of their fear of the cracks in the mountain. While they did not find a place to stay, Lapitan had his son and wife evacuated while he and his father and elder brother stayed in their house to look after their livestock.

Lapitan, who survived despite having been buried in the rubble, is now recuperating at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center.

The fatalities

As of 6 p.m. on Thursday, the EOC has tallied 67 dead, 18 injured, and 16 still unaccounted for.

Naga City Mayor Kristine Vanessa Chiong said on Thursday afternoon that the responders headed by Tribunalo committed to complete the search and retrieval operations over the weekend.

On the other hand, about a dozen of the confirmed fatalities remained unidentified, with nary a relative coming forward to claim the remains.

Cebu City Councilor Dave Tumulak yesterday urged the relatives of those who died in the landslide to help the National Bureau of Investigation in Central Visayas (NBI-7) fast track the conduct of the Disaster Victim Identification (DVI).

There were 11 bodies, and 21 severed body parts that remained unidentified as of Thursday noon, said Tumulak, quoting reports from the Cebu City responders who have been helping in the rescue, search and retrieval operation since the landslide hit on Sept. 20.

A total of 28 bodies were transported to Cebu City on Tuesday (September 25) for DVI. They are housed at the Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes in Junquera Street, Cebu City and examined by the medico legal officer of NBI-7.

“We urged them to bring medical records, if ever they have one, to help NBI identify these bodies. Because these are important. Like dental records, records of recent operations, pictures of tattoos, birthmarks to identify these bodies,” said Tumulak.

Once identified, the remains will be placed in sealed coffins and returned to their families in Naga City, he added.

Last Wednesday, seven cadavers were identified and released to their families. Ten more were brought back to their families in Naga City yesterday noon, aside from the 11 that remained unidentified.

Tumulak said the disappearance of name tags attached to the body bags contributed to why the identification process took long, aside from the fact that only Dr. Rene Cam, NBI-7’s only medico-legal officer, is tasked to examine all of them.

According to Tumulak, the name tags were lost because some relatives of the victims placed them inside the cadaver bags while some funeral parlor workers took out the name tags without placing them back.

The aftermath

Meanwhile, Chiong said she was hoping for a “strengthened interagency coordination” now that a new regional director has been appointed in the Mines and Geosciences Bureau in Central Visayas (MGB-7).

Chiong maintained that warnings have not been properly coordinated to the LGU, contrary to the claims that MGB-7 had posted on their websites.

Chiong also said that the documents that MGB-7 had posted did not have the receive stamp of the mayor’s office.

In the wake of the killer landslide in Naga City, Minglanilla Mayor Elanito Peña said he was willing to completely forego with the the quarry industry that operates in four of the barangays in the town.

On Monday, Peña issued cease and desist orders for all the quarry operations in Minglanilla.

Peña said he received reports that one of the quarry sites lie on a fault line and that he is only waiting for the recommendations of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) teams that are now conducting site inspections in the quarry sites before he will make a final decision.

On Thursday, the Minglanilla government handed P500,000 as aid to the Naga City victims.

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TAGS: burial, closure, decent, families, missing, victims

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