OFFICIALS stopped searching for survivors of Tuesday’s massive earthquake and shifted to retrieval operations on Saturday as the death toll in Bohol and Cebu rose to 180.
“The rescue operations have ended and instead we are now conducting recovery operations,” National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Chief Eduardo del Rosario said.
“We are still looking for 13 others. Our responders are now on site to recover their bodies,” he added.
Bohol, known for its beaches, rolling “Chocolate Hills”, tiny tarsier primates and centuries-old Catholic churches suffered landslides, fallen bridges, shattered roads and collapsed buildings.
Del Rosario said 167 people were killed on the island. There were 12 fatalities on Cebu island and one on Siquijor. A total of 13 people are still missing.
The Ndrrmc said that 695,466 families or 3, 492, 296 people in more than 1,300 villages in 58 towns in Central and Western Visayas were affected by the temblor.
No fatalities were reported among foreign tourists.
Bohol Gov. Edgar Chatto said that power had been restored on the island while major roads blocked by landslides had re-opened, speeding up the delivery of relief.
The disaster council said the quake displaced nearly 400,000 people. Many are still in makeshift tents, terrorized by aftershocks and unwilling to return home.
The quake damaged more than 34,000 houses across the region, with about 109,000 people sheltering at government-run camps on Bohol.
Damage to infrastructure was placed at P500 million.
The NDRRMC said that 37 bridges in Bohol, Cebu and Negros Occidental were damaged and 24 of them remain closed to traffic. At least 18 roads were also affected, and 13 are still not passable
Savings for relief
Malacanang said government savings may be tapped to aid the victims of the 7.2 earthquake.
Deputy Presidential spokesman Abigail Valte gave assurances that the government has sufficient funds to help the quake-affected areas.
“The DBM [Department of Budget and Management] is already identifying other sources of fund that can be tapped, and because of our prudent spending, we have enough savings that we can use in times like these,” Valte said in a radio interview, referring to the Department of Budget and Management.
She said President Benigno Aquino 3rd has assigned appropriate government agencies to ensure that the residents and structures in Metro Manila, which is near the West Valley Fault in Marikina, are prepared for emergencies such as earthquakes.
“We are on to evaluating which structures are for retrofitting, as well as distributing geohazard maps and urging families to review their disaster preparedness measure because we need the citizens’ cooperation in this,” Valte said. “If we are able to take care of our families, there will be a lesser need for repair and rehabilitation.”
House Deputy Minority Leader Neri Colmenares warned Aquino against using the Cebu and Bohol tragedies to justify the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
“The people of Bohol need all the help the government can provide and President Aquino should deliver aid in the most efficient and equitable manner. It’s not right for Malacanang to say that it cannot deliver aid without DAP when they have billions in the 2013 budget,” Colmenares said.
He said that based on the DBM website, the government has only spent P1.404 billion of the P7.5 billion calamity fund.
Aside from the calamity fund, there is also the P3.4-billion Quick Response Fund in various agencies and the P14-billion school building fund of Department of Public Works and Highways.