Philippine Daily Inquirer, Dec. 10, 2004

Arroyo on Real rescue: It's a miracle, praise God
By Fe Zamora


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday praised the heavens for the rescue of four survivors from the rubble of a collapsed building in Real, Quezon.

"Today, the soldiers, the volunteers of the mining companies and the [Department of Environment and Natural Resources] reached them and ... were able to rescue some of them. I'd like to thank God for that miracle, and they are continuing to dig deeper to see if they can rescue any more. Praise God for the miracle," she said in a statement.

Later emerging from a closed-door meeting at the National Disaster Coordinating Council at about 1 p.m., an exuberant Ms Arroyo reiterated her thanks for the rescue.

An NDCC report said the four recent storms and typhoons left 939 people dead, 837 missing and 752 injured, and destroyed crops, infrastructure, school buildings, transmission lines and health facilities estimated at P4.6 billion.

The President met with top defense, military and rescue officials for the second straight day to assess the damage and plan strategy to hasten relief and rehabilitation efforts in the affected areas.

Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz said Ms Arroyo had ordered them to "organize management teams" in Infanta, Real and General Nakar in Quezon, and Dingalan in Aurora for easier distribution of relief goods.

Cruz said the local management teams would coordinate with the joint task force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US forces that would be providing relief and humanitarian assistance.

Yesterday, Brig. Gen. Kenneth Glueck, commanding officer of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Forces, and Navy Capt. Dennis Williams, liaison officer of the US Pacific Command, met with top defense and military officials to finalize the functions of the task force.

"Right now, our charter is to make an impact, to affront, to assist, to get to the reconstruction phase," Glueck told reporters.

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