Manila: President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Philippine Air Force to utilise helicopters in bringing relief to Sitio Sakrang in Banawel village, Natonin, Mountain Province which was rendered isolated by landslides.

Duterte, during a press briefing in Isabela on Thursday following an aerial inspection of the landslide site in Mountain Province, ordered the Philippine Air Force Tactical Operation Group (PAF-TOG) to open up an air bridge to Sitio Sakarang so that help could be brought in. Mudslides that took place at the height of typhoon Yutu’s onslaught in Northern Philippines on October 30 swallowed entire two-storey structures and rendered roads to the area unpassable to vehicles.

“We will ask the (PAF-TOG) to provide air mobility,” the President told Governor Bonifacio Icawasan Jr of Mountain Province.

The air bridge, made up of several helicopters continuously ferrying supplies such as food and water, will also bring the injured to the hospitals.

Yutu, referred to in the Philippines as typhoon “Rosita” brought 140kph winds and heavy rains to the provinces of Isabela, Cagayan, Mountain Provinces and nearby area. The continued downpour caused massive landslides, one of which engulfed three buildings of the Department of Public Works and Highways in Sitio Nakarang where some 30 people had sought shelter.

Remains recovered

Government reports said the remains of 10 people had been recovered from the landslide site while rescuers had been able to retrieve 14 survivors from the area where three buildings of the Department of Public Works and Highways once stood in Sitio Nakarang. Nineteen other victims 19 remain missing.

Sniffer dogs had been brought in by helicopters to aid the more than 300 volunteers and government soldiers taking part in the search and retrieval operations.

The landslide site is located in a highland area which is more than 10 hours away from Baguio City.

According to Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, the government is rushing efforts to make the roads accessible so that help can be brought in to the isolated areas.

“We have reinforced search and rescue operations with additional equipment and personnel. Maximising all efforts to minimise casualties. Please pray for everyone affected by the landslide,” he said.

Duterte underlined that there is still much work to be done as the damage caused by the typhoon was extensive.

The President also suggested to give typhoon victims ready-to-eat food as the victims and the rescuers have no time to spare for cooking meals.

Yutu ravaged larged areas of Northern and Central Luzon leaving more than 30,000 families displaced according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.