Philippines

Philippines: An update on the Southern Leyte landslide

A massive landslide buried an entire village in Barangay Guinsa-ugon, in the town of St. Bernard, Southern Leyte province on Friday, February 17, 2006 at around 10:00 am. The landslide roared down a mountainside burying around 500 houses and an elementary school packed with around 246 schoolchildren, six (6) teachers, a principal and two health and social workers. Classes were ongoing at the time of the landslide.
A women's celebration was also being held in the barangay hall at the time of the landslide and the participants were believed to be trapped inside the hall.

The landslides had been triggered by more than two weeks of continuous heavy rainfall, estimated to be four times more than the normal recorded rainfall. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvolcs) also recorded a 2.6 magnitude earthquake which hit the southwestern portion of Southern Leyte around 10:36 a.m

Barangay Guinsaugon, is around 7 kilometers away from the town proper and has an estimated population of 3,000.

Based on the report released by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) on February 21, 2006, aside from Barangay Guinsa-ugon, 15 other barangays were also affected by the landslide. Four evacuation centers are serving at least 439 families with 1,645 persons while other families are currently staying with their friends and relatives. Eighty-one (81) dead bodies have been recovered from the landslide site, 19 survivors have been rescued while 996 persons are still missing.

A pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and his 6 month old daughter were among those killed in the landslide. According to Rev. Dominador Gulles of the UCCP St. Bernard Task Force, only nine (9) of the almost 70 members of UCCP Guinsaugon are in the survivors' list, the rest among those who are feared to be buried in the mud.

The ongoing search and rescue operations had been hampered by the heavy mud. Based on the readings of the special instruments, they were able to identify the location of the school building which lay beneath 25 to 30 meters of mud. Rescuers have not been able to use heavy equipment to dig in because the ground is still soft. The national highway leading to the village was also damaged.

One of the evacuation centers being used is the church of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP).

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) is coordinating with the UCCP local church for emergency response. A team will also be dispatched to conduct needs assessment particularly on rehabilitation assistance.

Reference:

Minnie Anne M. Calub
Program Secretary
Program Unit on Faith, Witness and Service
National Council of Churches in the Philippines
879 EDSA, Quezon City
Tel.No. (632) 922-91-41/ (+639189019359)
Email: nccp-ga@philonline.com / mfmcalub@yahoo.com