Philippine military working with Indonesian authorities in search for missing typhoon victims at sea

Members of the Philippine Navy arrange donated sacks of relief goods to be sent to the victims of Typhoon Bopha onto a ship docked at the Navy base in Cavite City, south of Manila in this December 11, 2012 handout photo released by the Naval Public Affairs Office. Typhoon Bopha killed 714 people and caused crop damage worth 10.3 billion pesos when it hit on Tuesday last week. Nearly 900 people are unaccounted for and about 2,000 were injured, the national disaster agency said. (MNS photo)

MANILA, Dec 12 (Mabuhay) — The Philippine military has coordinated with the Indonesian authorities for assistance in the ongoing maritime search and rescue operations following the devastation brought about by Typhoon Pablo in Mindanao.

Philippine Navy’s Capt. Robert Empedrad, the commander of the joint task force for maritime search and rescue, said that they have been working with Indonesian authorities hoping that Filipinos lost at sea during the height of the typhoon could still be saved.

“The good news is that we also coordinated with the Indonesians because when we assessed the situation there is a possibility that some of our missing fishermen drifted to the Indonesian waters,” Empedrad said in a press briefing in Malacanang on Wednesday.

“We requested the government of Indonesia to send ships also and they sent one ship in the area where (there is) a possibility that the fishermen who were lost may be located in the south of Central Mindanao—down Balut Island,” he added.

The navy assumed that the missing individuals may have drifted 100 nautical miles east of Bislig Island, he said noting that based on the navy’s assessment they could have reached Indonesian waters because of the prevailing wind condition in the northeast.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) said there are 313 missing fishermen based on its latest count. The navy has so far able to recover 35 bodies from sea, Empedrad said.

The navy isn’t losing hope in finding survivors because fishermen with enough supply of food and water could survive at sea for several days, he said.

The NDRRMC said there are a total of 890 missing as a result of the typhoon. And as of Wednesday morning, the death toll was pegged at 740, expecting the figure to rise considering the number of the missing persons.

Lt. Gen. George Segovia of the Eastern Mindanao Command said the biggest challenge that the current search and rescue operation is facing is the magnitude of the disaster.

“The magnitude of the disaster is a challenge in itself. Reaching people in remote areas had been quite difficult but we were able to do that using our air assets. For our aerial capability, the weather continues to be a challenge because, especially in the afternoons, the low cloud ceiling prevents our helicopters from flying over these areas,” Segovia said during the same press briefing in Malacanang.

President Benigno S. Aquino III has recently designated Segovia to oversee the overall search and rescue operations following the onslaught of Typhoon Pablo.

The President ordered a wide-scale search operation, to account for all of the missing and return them to their families.

President Aquino visited the devastated areas last week, particularly Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental. He also coordinated efforts for effective relief and reconstruction efforts. (MNS)

Members of the Philippine Navy carry donated caskets to be sent to the victims of Typhoon Bopha onto a ship docked at the Navy base in Cavite City. (MNS photo)

Members of the Philippine Navy arrange donated caskets which will be sent to the victims of Typhoon Bopha onto a ship docked at the Navy base in Cavite City. (MNS photo)

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