11 missing Filipinos in 6.3-magnitude NZ temblor presumed dead, says Del Rosario

March 4, 2011 1:22 pm 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, March 3 — Eleven persons, all believed to be Filipinos who were buried alive in the aftermath of last week’s powerful earthquake in New Zealand, are presumed dead by authorities, Acting Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert F. del Rosario told the press on Thursday.

Del Rosario said the grim news was relayed to him by phone during a conversation with New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully on Wednesday afternoon. McCully had called to extend his government's condolences to the families of the Filipino victims.

The Filipinos, mostly students brushing up on their English in preparation for work in New Zealand’s health service sector, were at their language school in the CTV Building in Christchurch when the 6.3 temblor shook New Zealand’s second biggest city to its foundation.

Filipinos and other Asian students at the school were among the largest group of foreign casualties of the quake. Authorities now estímate the total number of dead at 220, with no less than 100 from the Philippines, Japan, China and Indonesia.

Still missing since last week's quake were Jesse Lloyd Redoble, John Christopher Chua, Ezra Mae Medalle, Emmabel Anova, Jewel Francisco, Ivy Jane Cabunillas, Mary Louise Anne Amantillo, Valquin Bensurto, Rhea Mae Sumalpong, Erica Nora and Lalaine Agatep.

“He was extending his sympathy for the loss of the eleven Filipinos who have perished in that earthquake and I think they stopped the search and they’re going into another mode now,” Del Rosario told reporters.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it is currently helping the other families of the victims go to New Zealand by facilitating their passports and visas so they could identify the remains of their loved ones.

Families were also requested to provide dental records and other information of the missing to facilitate faster identification.

New Zealand has ceased rescue operations for possible survivors since last Friday and retrieved at least 160 bodies, but DFA would not confirm if they included Filipinos.

Seconds after they were caught in the rubble, a few of those presumed dead have talked to their families in the Philippines via their mobile phones. Minutes later, they were no longer responding to frantic return calls from the Philippines. (PNA)

DCT/scs/GJB

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