Soldiers trekked for 5 hours to rescue trapped villagers in mountains of North Cotabato after 6.6 earthquake

Photo courtesy of Cebu Daily News Inquirer

Davao City - Residents of sitios Bagong Silang and Kapatagan of Baranggay Luayon have been trapped for five days after the magnitude of 6.6 earthquake hit the area.

Villagers consisting of four children and the rest were men and women who were trapped since the October 29 earthquake in Mindanao.

Despite the risk of massive landslides, Philippine Army soldiers hiked on Sunday for more than five 
hours to find and rescue at least 21 villagers who had been trapped for five days in the mountainous 
Barangay Luayon in Makilala, North Cotabato.

The landslides closed off Luayon and several other barangays in Makilala where Emergency Response Company (ERC) troopers, along with elements of the 39th Infantry Battalion, started to hike on Saturday, November 2, to the mountainous village and can only be accessed by trekking.

According to Pfc. Jacil Joe Tupa, of the Army’s10th Infantry Division’s ERC, said that the residents were unable to evacuate to safer grounds due to massive landslides triggered by the strong quake and aftershocks that blocked the roads.

The 14-man team of Army responders brought along with them some livestock and motorcycles. 21 villagers walked with the Army responders where the 14 other villagers were airlifted before noon to the Incident Command Team headquarters in Amas Capitol Compound in Kidapawan City.

Trapped villagers were only discovered trapped last November 1 through their fellow villagers who were able to evacuate on October 29, according to Acting Vice Governor Shirlyn Macasarte-Villanueva, who joined the Army rescue team.

Villanueva and the rescuers boarede two Bell UH-1, Philippine Air Force helicopters of the 505th Search and Rescue Group and the Bell 412 helicopter, were also used to transport VIPs, including President Duterte. Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) personnel also joined the rescue team.

“We admit, we were a bit nervous because we know that it is a landslide-prone area and some cracks might cave in anytime,” Tupa said in the local dialect.

It was already dark when the rescue team arrived at the mountainous barangay, prompting them to spend the night with the trapped residents, Tupa added.

Despite admitting that the terrain was quite difficult, they were able to locate the villagers by just following the road leading to the village, Tupa explained.

While the soldiers were confident that the pilots are skilled enough to find the landing zone located just 600 meters away from the houses of the villagers, the team were also ready to escort all the villagers to safer grounds by foot had the helicopters failed to land.

“If there was no landing zone, we have to take a hike but the residents will be forced to leave some of their heavy belongings,”Tupa said.

Despite cracks everywhere, Tupa admired the skills of the Philippine Air Force pilots for being able to land on top of ridge.

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