Authorities are speeding up retrieval operations in earthquake-hit areas of Negros Oriental after the state weather agency announced that rains may affect the province over the weekend.

Benito Ramos, Office of Civil Defense administrator, said signs of the low-pressure area (LPA) sighted by Pagasa started showing over Negros Oriental on Saturday so he ordered responders to speed things up.

“Tuluy-tuloy lang ang retrieval habang hindi pa nag-uulan dahil inaasahan natin na may uulan dahil dun sa advisory ng Pagasa na may low-pressure area dun east of Mindanao, so apektado yung Visayas, eto nga makulimlim na, ang kapal-kapal na ng mga ulap,” Ramos said when contacted past 1 p.m. Saturday.

“Race against time ‘yun, kaya nagdala ng bulldozer ‘yung Army kahapon,” he said.

“Ang kinatatakutan ko na baka mag-ulan ito eh stop na naman ‘yung retrieval operations,” Ramos added.

Retrieval operations in landslide-hit areas of Brgy. Planas, Guihulngan City, and Brgy. Solongon, La Libertad, were suspended on Thursday amid fears that rains might cause new landslides that pose danger to rescuers.

As of this writing, the “official” number of fatalities remain at 39 while 66 more people are believed to be still under the rubble.

The 6.9-magnitude earthquake that struck last Monday affected 21,076 families, of which 88,940 people remain in evacuation centers or are taking shelter with relatives and friends, accoding to latest figures provided by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The quake damaged 2,993 houses, of which 1,421 were totally destroyed and 1,572 bore partial damage, according to the NDRRMC.

Damages to infrastructure like roads and bridges were estimated to have reached P665 million while 2,190 hectares of rice and corn worth P56 million were destroyed, according to the Negros Oriental Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. (John Roson)

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