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Updated: October 19, 2013 13:35 IST

Philippines calls off search for quake survivors

DPA
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In this photo released by the Malacanang Photo Bureau, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, right, stands beside the damaged Basilica Del Santo Nino in quake-hit Cebu, central Philippines.
AP In this photo released by the Malacanang Photo Bureau, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, right, stands beside the damaged Basilica Del Santo Nino in quake-hit Cebu, central Philippines.

Philippine authorities on Saturday gave up hope of finding survivors from the worst earthquake to hit the country in two decades, which left at least 180 people dead.

The rescue operation was called off four days after the magnitude-7.2 earthquake in Bohol province, 640 kilometres south of Manila, on Tuesday.

“The rescue operations have ended and, instead, we are now conducting recovery operations,” Eduardo Del Rosario, head of the national disaster relief agency, told a press conference.

“We are still looking for 13 others. Our responders are now on the site to recover their bodies,” he added.

More than 3.4 million people were affected by the quake, including nearly 400,000 forced to stay outdoors under makeshift tents for fear that aftershocks could cause their homes to collapse.

Food, water and other relief supplies were running low in many of the affected areas as damaged roads and bridges slowed down efforts to bring help to them.

Authorities said government teams were working double time to clear the roads. Emergency workers were using alternative means to provide relief goods.

“We’ve been able to reach some places by airlifting and doing food drops,” presidential deputy spokeswoman Abigail Valte said. “Disaster response teams have also been using boats to reach places with roads rendered impassable by the quake.” Most of the dead were in Bohol, the site of the earthquake’s epicentre, where 167 people were killed. Thirteen were killed in the nearby provinces of Cebu and Siquijor, the disaster relief agency said.

All the 13 missing and presumed dead are from Bohol. They include five boys who were playing near a waterfall in the town of Sagbayan when the tremor hit, police said.

The earthquake destroyed more than 34,000 houses in five affected provinces, several centuries-old churches, dozens of hospitals and government buildings.

Electricity and water supplies were disrupted for days, while telecommunication remained weak in many areas, especially Bohol, a province that is home to more than 1.25 million people.

Damage to infrastructure has been estimated at 549 million pesos (13 million dollars). Tourism, a key industry in Bohol and Cebu, has also taken a hit, with cancellations pouring in.

Top tourist draws to Bohol were damaged by the quake, including historic churches and the Chocolate Hills, a group of more than 1,200 grass-covered limestone domes.

The quake was the worst to hit the Philippines since July 1990, when a magnitude-7.9 quake killed more than 1,600 people, with 1,000 still listed as missing, presumed dead.

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