Mayon rescuers fail to bring down German remains

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Photo grab from Gov. Joey Salceda facebook
Photo grab from Gov. Joey Salceda facebook

By Mike de la Rama, PNA

LEGAZPI CITY, 9-May-2013 – Rescuers Wednesday morning retrieved the bodies of four German nationals and a Filipino guide who died during an unexpected 73-second phreatic or steam-driven explosion that hit Mayon Volcano at about 8:04 a.m., Tuesday.

The slippery and rugged terrain and the weight of the dead bodies its members were carrying, however, slowed down the movements of the team and rendered them unable to bring the casualties to Camp 1 where a helicopter was supposed to fetch the remains of the five, according to Gov. Joey Salceda, Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) chair.

Camp 1 is the base of the rescue operations.

The dead bodies of German nationals Joanne Edosa, Roland Pietee, Farah Frances and Furian Stelter and Albayano guide Jerome Berin were retrieved from the area between Camp 2, some two hours’ walk from Camp 1, and the peak of Mayon.

Dr. Butch Rivera, Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH) medical director, said the five mountaineers died due to “trauma to their bodies” because of the impact of rocks from the crater of Mayon Volcano coupled with ash that caused suffocation and lung problem.

They were being brought to Camp 1 where they will be picked by a helicopter and will be brought to the BRTTH by a medical team from the BRTTH and the Department of Health.

“We will observe the proper protocol before transporting the bodies to Manila,” said Rivera.

The rescuers belong to the Mayon Operation Response Team.

The massive search and recovery since Tuesday night by the joint forces of the Philippine Army, Philippine Navy, Philippine National Police, Philippine National Red Cross, Philippine Air Force and medical teams from BRTTH and the province of Albay eventually led to the successful retrieval of the dead bodies.

Earlier, three Thai nationals, an Austrian and three local mountaineers were rescued and brought to the BRTTH after they incurred bruises.

Salceda identified the Thais as Nithi Ruangpisit, Tanut Ruchipiyrak and Udom Kiap and the Austrian as Sabine Strohberger, who also suffered bruises.

The local mountaineers rescued were Bernard Hernandez, 25, married, from Barangay Lidong, wounded at the right hand; Calixto Baluso, 30, single, from Lidong, with swelling left forefinger; and Kenneth Jesalva, 21.

Also rescued were 10 other able-bodied individuals.

A search team Wednesday rescued another survivor, Thai national Boonchai Jattupornong, 35, who is the last among the reported missing trekkers.

Rescuers found the missing Thai national at around 3:45 p.m. in Camp 2 or located about 3,000 feet from the foot of Mayon.

He was unable to walk due to fatigue, suffered broken right arm and burns in the neck and back, said Cedric Daep, head of the Albay Public Safety Emergency and Management Office (APSEMO).

Daep said the survivor is now in stable condition.

“We have prioritized the rescue of the wounded mountaineers as we don’t want to add to the number of dead persons, five of whom have been confirmed. We then proceeded to the retrieval of the dead bodies, which have been located between Camp 2 and the peak of Mayon,” he added.

Twenty-seven climbers were reported to be in Camp 2 when the volcano spewed ash blended with stones.

Salceda said there will be no changes in the policies of the provincial government.

“We must follow the Phivolcs (Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology) because they are the scientists; as far as the geological aspect, we follow the Phivolcs,” he added.

The Albay governor said the status of Mayon volcano is zero alert level.

“This simply means that there is no risk, the risk is on the human activity– the mountaineers. The controlling factor is for the mountaineers to be alert,” he advised.

Salceda said the APSEMO never promoted climbing the Mayon Volcano. “What we ask is to observe the proper protocol.“

He said all mountaineering activities must be subject to Phivolcs’ clearance.

He also reiterated that the priority of the provincial government of Albay is to save the lives of the mountaineers first.

“There is nobody liable for the incident in Mayon. We will confront all questions without demoralizing our 72 teams and so many other people working and risking their lives on the slopes of Mayon Volcano,” the Albay executive explained, adding, “Our entire attention and efforts have been focused on rescuing and recovering the victims.”

He warned that the six-kilometer permanent danger zone is strictly in effect.

“None of these tour guide operators or those 27 now affected have ever, ever sought the permission or gave notice to climb,” Salceda clarified. “Since becoming a governor, I have not permitted or signed any permit for even a single climb to the crater of Mayon volcano.”

The proposed protocols, he said, have set joint control by the Department of Tourism and the local government unit. (PNA)

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