Negros earthquake: President Aquino visited Negros province where an earthquake struck Monday. Dozens of people are still missing, perhaps buried in landslides caused by the 6.9 magnitude quake.
(AP Photo/Jay Morales, Malacanang Palace Photo Bureau)
Philippine officials conceded Wednesday that there was little hope of finding any survivors among 71 people still buried in landslides set off by a powerful earthquake, as jittery residents stayed away from their homes amid a flurry of aftershocks.
Soldiers, rescue volunteers and villagers using picks and shovels have not found anyone alive under concrete rubble and tons of rocks and mountain soil since the magnitude-6.9 quake struck two townships in central Negros Oriental province on Monday. So far, 26 bodies have been recovered and identified.
"I am still hoping against hope, but the chances (of recovering survivors) are very slim. If you see the landslide, it's huge and there is no chance of them surviving," said Benito Ramos, head of the Office of Civil Defense.
Ramos accompanied President Benigno Aquino III on a visit to the disaster area, during which Aquino ordered the immediate construction of detour roads to revive commerce and speed up the delivery of relief supplies.
Aquino criticized the shoddy road construction, while Ramos said bridges that were damaged were not built to sustain such a strong quake.
Eleven bridges reportedly were damaged in Negros Oriental, three of them beyond repair.
Philippine seismologists said they were previously unaware of the undersea fault line that caused the temblor, which sent rocks, trees and other debris crashing down mountainsides in the two worst-hit towns of Guihulngan and nearby La Libertad.