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Death toll in Maco, Davao de Oro landslide now 68, ops shift from rescue to retrieval

Authorities said 68 people are confirmed to have died from the deadly landslides in Maco, Davao de Oro while 51 people remain missing.

In GMA Regional TV One Mindanao's Rgil Relator’s  “24 Oras” report Monday, at least 32 were also injured from the tragic incident that occurred six days ago. 

Search and retrieval operations in Ground Zero continue but authorities said that identifying the victims remains a challenge.

“Nare-recognize nila 'yung facial identity ng victim but later on, hindi na siya ma-identify,” said  Dr. Charino Labrador of the National Bureau of Investigation-Southeastern Mindanao Regional Office (NBI-SEMRO).

(They recognize the victims’ facial identities but later on, they cannot be identified anymore.)

We rely on the secondary parameters. Ine-examine namin mga 10 minutes for fingerprint tapos 'yung mga identification cards, jewelry, deformities sa katawan, tattoos,” Labrador said. 

(We rely on the secondary parameters. We examine the fingerprints, identification cards, jewelry, deformities, and tattoos.)

A large number of those who perished were passengers of two buses that were buried underneath the landslide. It was filled with employees of a mining company who had just finished their work shift and were returning to their homes when the landslide occurred.

Meanwhile, three more search and rescue dogs will be deployed to the area to hasten the search and retrieval operations. 

Provincial officials are currently searching for acceptable areas for the temporary and permanent relocation sites of the affected residents. 

“So far as the vision to have them relocated, the vision that area is not going to be occupied again, we would be firm with that. We cannot allow anybody there to occupy again that Ground Zero,” said Davao de Oro Governor Dorothy Montejo-Gonzaga. 

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Mines and Geosciences Bureau (DENR-MGB) said it will speed up its assessment of the relocation site areas to aid the victims. 

For its part, mining firm Apex continued its operations despite the landslide.

“Magkakaroon ng flooding kung hindi natin io-operate ang mga facilities. Magkakaroon ng accumulation of gas, so unsafe na naman,” explained Engr. Ferdinand Dobli, Apex Mining Company Incident Commander. 

(Flooding will occur if we stop operations in our facilities. There will also be an accumulation of gas so it would be unsafe.)

More than 1,300 families affected

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), in its 11 p.m. report, said a total of 1,347 families or 5,431 people in four barangays of Maco municipality were affected by the landslide.

At least 62 houses were severely damaged by the landslide. 

Classes have been suspended in the town. Two barangays experienced interruptions to power and communications lines. —Sundy Locus/RF/KG, GMA Integrated News