BETA

Toll continues to rise in Philippines quake

As the death toll in the Philippines continues to rise from an earthquake that struck the Philippines July 16, the known number of Church members killed in the quake has also increased to five. The death toll could rise even further as rescuers are still digging through the debris of collapsed buildings.

According to Elder George I. Cannon of the Seventy and president of the Philippines/Micronesia Area, "It is remarkable considering the devastation that anyone lived."Three LDS youths, students at the Philippines Christian College in Cabanatuan, were presumed dead following the collapse of a six-story building where they were studying. The bodies have not yet been recovered. Another member pulled from the rubble is in serious condition, Elder Cannon said.

One member was crushed in a stampede outside a theater in Dagupan. "Much of the city just kind of sunk with the earthquake, but the members are carrying on and doing what they can," he said.

A 4-year-old LDS boy was also killed when his home in Baguio collapsed.

The earthquake that shook the center of the northern Luzon Island, measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale, was the most severe quake to hit the area in 14 years. (See July 21 Church News.) Since then, additional tremors continue to jolt the Philippines.

Places hit hardest in the quake include Baguio, Dagupan and Agoo where 30 to 50 LDS families are homeless, Elder Cannon said.

"In Baguio as we are able to make a count we will probably find more casualties. All of the priesthood and Relief Society leaders are out contacting their members to see how they are getting along. It's moving very well and they are reporting back to us as they can. Communication in Baguio is still very difficult, but we are able to talk to them periodically."

Baguio, 130 miles north of Manila, continues to have additional tremors almost daily, he said. "When we visited with some members, they said they had over 300 tremors since the earthquake so it is still settling down. Their morale is good."

The members who are homeless are either providing for themselves or have turned to shelters, he said. Several Church meetinghouses have been damaged, but others have been opened to those needing shelter.

Many people, however, prefer to sleep outside because of continued tremors, Elder Cannon said. Food, tents and supplies have been sent to their aid by the Church.

The Manila temple did not sustain any noticeable damage in the earthquake, Church officials said.

All missionaries in the Philippines Baguio Mission are accounted for and have been evacuated from Baguio except for a skeleton crew at the office, Elder Cannon said. The mission president has moved to temporary quarters in San Fernando.

At least 1,621 people were killed in the quake as of July 24 news reports. More than 3,000 were seriously injured and about 1,000 were missing. Those figures were released by the Office of Civil Defense and the Red Cross.

Defense Secretary Fidel Ramos, chairman of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, said nearly 90,000 people are homeless.