One week after the massive landslide in the Philippines, relief teams end the search for buried survivors, moving on to rebuild the lives of those who still alive.
US Marines has played a key role in the rescue work throughout the week in collaboration with Philippine soldiers, Malaysian and Taiwanese workers. Christian relief groups such as World Vision, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and Action by Churches Together (ACT) also have a strong presence at the frontline.
While experts are trying to detect any possible lives by using sophisticated equipments, rescue workers have diligently been digging through the mud last week. However, according to the Associated Press (AP), not a single person has been found alive since the first day of the disaster.
On Feb. 17, a mountain collapsed and buried a remote farming village of Guinsaugon situated 675 kilometers southeast of Manila, in St. Bernard municipality on the island of Leyte. 139 bodies have been found so far; another 973 people are believed buried beneath and dead, AP reported.
"We have decided to move on to recovery and rehabilitation of survivors because our greater responsibility ... is to rebuild the lives of those who have been devastated by this disaster," Rosette Lerias, governor of Southern Leyte province, said to AP on Friday.
In fact, privately many rescue workers have already lost hope in discovering lives under the mud even before the announcement was made. However, they have persisted till the very last moment.
On Thursday, one rescue worker, who did not want to be named, said to Agence France Presse (AFP), "Everyone is waiting for the word that it’s over but no one wants to say it."
Meanwhile, government-based and church-based relief groups invest all effort in recovery and rehabilitation of survivors. According to a statement from Actions by Churches Together (ACT), four evacuation centers are serving at least 439 families (around 1,645 people) while other families are currently staying with friends and relatives. One of the evacuation centers being used is a church of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP).
Members of UCCP are seriously affected in the landside. It was reported that only 9 of the 70 members of UCCP Guinsaugon are on the survivors’ list, the rest are among those who are feared to be buried in the mud.
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) is coordinating with the UCCP local church for emergency response. A team will be dispatched to conduct a needs assessment, particularly rehabilitation assistance. An ACT appeal may be launched as well.
Cooperating with other humanitarian organizations and government officials, Save the Children assists survived children and families by providing basic necessities including food, water, and clothing at evacuation centers set up in nearby churches and schools. The agency will distribute emergency kits to families that include soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, bottled water and other essential items.
One of the biggest challenges for relief work is the continued heavy rains. Rudy von Bernuth, who heads Save the Children USA’s emergency response efforts said, "But the distribution of essential items for children and families affected by this disaster continues. We also remain vigilant of the risk to neighboring villages, where further mudslides or floods are possible due to the very heavy rains."