>MANILA, Philippines – There is no sign of life at the Canterbury Television (CTV) building in Christchurch, New Zealand where 11 Filipinos were reportedly trapped when it collapsed on Wednesday last week.
Citing a report of the Philippine embassy team in Christchurch, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said 11, not 12, Filipinos are among about 200 people still missing in the aftermath of a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that struck Christchurch a week ago and left 146 people dead.
The DFA said a certain Elisa Torres, earlier thought to be Filipino, was determined to be of another nationality.
DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr. said on Friday that the search and rescue team deployed by New Zealand decided to cease operations as there was no longer any sign of life in the collapsed building.
But Conejos said a Japanese search and rescue team also arrived in Christchurch to try to extricate victims from the rubble.
The Philippine embassy team arrived in Christchurch on Feb. 23 to coordinate with authorities as well as to look after the welfare of around 2,000 Filipinos in the area.
The team repeatedly asked and prodded rescue officials to continue with the search, given the text messages that were sent by a number of missing Filipinos immediately after the quake to their families here regarding their conditions and locations.
Through the DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs and the Regional Consular Office in Cebu, Charge d’Affaires in Wellington Giovanni Palec conducted a telephone conference on Saturday with the Cebu-based families of five of the missing Filipinos believed trapped in the rubble of the CTV building.
During the phone patch, Palec apprised the relatives on the latest updates from New Zealand authorities and the initiatives undertaken by his team.
The missing Filipinos are Jesse Lloyd Redoble, John Christopher Chua, Ezea Mae Medalle, Emmabel Anova, Jewel Francisco, Ivy Jane Cabunillas, Mary Louise Anne Amantillo, Valquin Bensurto, Rhea Mae Sumalpong, Erica Nora, and Lalaine Agatep.
Arrangements are also underway to have the relatives of the 11 missing Filipinos go to New Zealand to assist in the identification of the fatalities.
Police authorities have yet to release a consolidated list of missing persons with their nationalities, despite repeated requests by New Zealanders and other families searching for definitive answers as to the status of their missing loved ones.
Authorities are now on the recovery phase of their operations, including in the CTV area which has received intense international attention due to a large number of missing students, including Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese and Thais.
The remains of those recovered are transported to a military camp in Christchurch, where the identification and processing take three weeks.
The DFA said on Friday that two Filipinos, Rita Estrella and Hayley Concepcion, who were previously reported among 14 Filipinos missing after the quake in Christchurch, are safe. – With Rainier Allan Ronda – By Pia Lee-Brago