By Che Palicte

GROUND ZERO. The landslide-stricken area in Barangay Masara Maco, Davao de Oro where rescue operations continue after the incident on Feb. 6, 2024. The Maco town government reported Monday (Feb. 12, 2024) that 55 bodies had already been retrieved, while 32 injured people were rescued. (PNA photo by Robinson Niñal Jr.)

DAVAO CITY – At least 55 bodies were so far retrieved from the ground zero where the massive landslide occurred on Feb. 6 in Barangay Masara in Maco, Davao de Oro.

“The Management of the Dead and the Missing Cluster are validating the tally of the missing individuals and the unidentified bodies,” the Maco town government said in a statement Monday.

The town government said 32 injured people were rescued.

On Sunday, Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Rex Gatchalian visited the ground zero and the evacuation sites, where he distributed relief and financial assistance.

“Your welfare is the priority of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and he sent me here to see to it that your needs will be addressed. He wanted to assure you that the national government is focusing its interventions on you,” Gatchalian said in his speech during the distribution in Nuevo Iloco National High School –one of the evacuation sites.

Gatchalian also assured the evacuees that the DSWD would help them bounce back to recover.

“We will continue to provide you with food packs and everything you need. The national government is also fast-tracking the financial assistance, and we are just happy that the local and national government is working hand in hand on this,” he added.

Meanwhile, for a speedy search and rescue (SAR) operation in the ground zero, the Philippine Army sent its SAR-trained personnel along with special equipment to provide additional support to the 1001st Infantry Brigade.

Earlier, additional K9 units with two rescue dogs arrived at the incident command post, while personnel from the 525th Engineer Combat Battalion also flew in from Metro Manila and brought with them thermal scanners that could detect body heat 30 feet underground.

The team also brought “snake-eye” cameras to look into tight spaces, listening devices and other specialized equipment. (PNA)