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Survivors of landslides in Leyte tells story of the tragic day

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ABUYOG, LEYTE — It started as an ordinary rainy day for Jessryl Rosquites, 23.

But as he conversed with his friends at the covered court in Pilar village in Abuyog, Leyte, everything changed when a landslide hit and buried their homes, claiming dozens of lives.

There was an explosion from the mountaintop and within 10 seconds, massive erosion of rocks, soil, and vegetation followed.

Their group scampered in all directions, Jessryl recalled.

“When a pile of debris was about to cover me, a big wave swept me away to the sea. It was a miracle!” he told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Wednesday.

The “miracle” was a tsunami, which the locals said, was generated from the displacement of large volumes of water caused by the major landslide.

Jessryl, a fisherman, and his father, Fernando Sr. survived but his younger brother, 18-year-old Leoncito, was not that lucky.

Leoncito’s cadaver was one of the 26 bodies found by the search, rescue, and retrieval team on Wednesday.

Still missing is Jessryl’s mother, Marilou, 40; and two younger brothers, Fernando Jr., and Aga.

Also lost are five other family members, including her sister-in-law, nephews, and nieces.

Her aunt, Adelaida, the village chief was also found dead.

“I’m not going back to our village again. I want to start a new life with my father in Metro Manila,” Jessryl said.

Tired and distressed, he spent his day watching the cadavers of his brother and 25 other villagers being tagged by responders at the back of the town hall.

The landslide happened around 3 p.m. on April 12. Debris covered 80 percent of Pilar village, according to the local police.

At the Abuyog Community College covered court, hundreds of residents from Pilar village are taking shelter.

One of them is Daisy Mae Villaroel, 23. Her photo embracing her dead son has been shared by netizens multiple times on social media since Tuesday night.

Her two-year-old son, Zharyn Dae is one of the landslide casualties.

Her brother is still missing, while her mother has been recovering in a local hospital after suffering serious injuries from the massive erosion.

Their family was preparing to move to a higher ground when they heard a sound like a passing helicopter flying low.

In a few seconds, they saw a downward movement of rocks and soil.

“I grabbed my sleeping son to save him and ran to the sea, but we were caught by a tsunami and got separated. While swimming, the strong current swept me to the far end of our village,” Daisy Mae recalled.

Her common-law husband, Junril Palimo was in Baybay City working on a construction site when the tragedy struck. After hearing the news, he rushed back home.

Daisy Mae’s family has not yet recovered from the devastations of Typhoon Odette that battered Leyte Island on Dec. 16, 2021.

The typhoon destroyed their house. Their family had been staying at their aunt’s house when Tropical Depression Agaton dumped heavy rains and triggered the landslide.

There is no official death count yet in Abuyog town and local authorities were unavailable for interviews to assess the impact of the landslide.

The police reported that immediately after the incident on Tuesday, two bodies were found in Pilar. Earlier this week, three died in other villages of Abuyog due to landslides.

At the back of the town hall, there were 26 bodies transported by boat from Pilar village on Wednesday afternoon.

A responder who refused to be named said they ended the search by 4 p.m. due to bad weather.

Initial reports revealed that there are 177 missing residents as of Wednesday.

The village, accessible both by land and sea travel, had over 100 houses and a population of 478. (PNA)

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