By Karl Romano
Search and retrieval crews have pulled 16 bodies from a storm-induced landslide that buried a government building in the mountainous northern Philippines, officials said Monday.
Efforts continued to find another 12 people believed buried in the landslide in the town of Natonin in Mountain Province, local disaster chief Ruben Carandang said.
“We have recovered, on my record –identified with names and addresses – 14 from ground zero and two outside of ground zero. So we have a total of 16,” Carandang told reporters.
Typhoon Yutu slammed into the Philippines last week, dumping torrential rains which covered most of the north still recovering from devastation wrought by Typhoon Mangkhut in September.
Mangkhut wreaked havoc along a similar path and caused landslides that hit the northern and central Philippines, killing at least 150 people.
Last week, Yutu forced thousands to flee their homes in the mountainous north as it crossed over the main island of Luzon.
On Monday, Carandang said retrieval operations would continue until the end of the week. Disaster relief officials were relocating residents away from landslide prone areas in the north.
The Department of Agriculture reported the typhoon damaged crops valued at U.S. $34.2 million (1.8 billion pesos) covering 90,052 hectares (222,000 acres).
Natonin Mayor Mateo Chiyawan was supposed to terminate the retrieval efforts on Monday but has extended until the end of the week to allow a group with special equipment to try to find those still missing.
Public works crews have cleared debris from the highway to improve accessibility to the area.
Local mines and geosciences head Benigno Espejo said more civilians might need to be relocated to safer areas. He said that as early as 2015, a series of small landslides in Natonin led to the soil erosion last week.
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