By Girlie Linao –
MANILA, Philippines — Rescuers dug through debris and mud in the central Philippines Tuesday in search of nearly 100 missing a day after a 6.9-magnitude earthquake triggered landslides, collapsed houses and killed at least 48 people.
More than 400 soldiers were dispatched to several villages in the central province of Negros Oriental, about 3560 miles south of Manila. The province suffered the most damage from Monday’s quake, said army Col. Francisco Zosimo Patrimonio.
Patrimonio said up to 92 people were missing, mostly from Guihulngan City and La Libertad town in the province of Negros Oriental where landslides buried a total of almost 100 houses in two villages.
He said the landslide buried 29 houses in the village of Planas in Guihulngan City and 60 houses in the village of Solongon in La Libertad town.
Patrimonio said rescuers were having difficulty moving around to help in the search for the missing. “Many roads have been cut off so our trucks are unable to go in. There is no water. There is no electricity,” he said.
Guihulngan City Mayor Ernesto Reyes said search operations were also being hampered by strong aftershocks.
“Many rescuers are here but we’ve had to stop our operations from time to time because there are still earthquakes occurring,” he told a Manila TV station. “Just now, it’s shaking very hard and the road where I’m standing is cracking.”
Reyes said he feared that the death toll in Guihulngan City alone could be higher than 50 already.
“I’m afraid we would not find survivors from the landslide in Planas,” he said. “They are all probably dead by now.”
The quake struck at 11:49 a.m. Monday and was felt in at least seven central provinces, including Negros Occidental, Iloilo, Cebu and Bacolod, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.
More than 900 aftershocks have been recorded since Monday, the strongest at magnitude 6.2.
Thousands of residents in affected areas were sleeping outside for fear that their houses would collapse in the aftershocks, while some hospitals also moved patients outdoors overnight.
President Benigno Aquino III was scheduled to visit Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental Wednesday, his spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
Lacierda said Aquino would “inspect damaged areas and meet our countrymen affected by the calamity as well as the government workers who are providing much needed relief operations on the ground.”
The Philippines, located in the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” suffered its worst earthquake in 1990 when a 7.7-magnitude tremor killed nearly 2,000 people on the northern island of Luzon.