The death toll in the aftermath of the military plane crash in Sulu climbed to 53, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Tuesday. The crash was one of the country’s deadliest air force disasters in at least four decades.
AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejana confirmed another soldier died from his injuries, raising the number of fatalities among the military to 50. Three civilians on the ground were also killed in the crash, which also left 46 soldiers and four civilians injured.
In an interview with CNN Philippines, Sobejana said the remains of at least 16 fatalities have already been identified.
“As we speak, 16 na po ‘yung mga na-identify na (we have already identified 16) cadavers,” Sobejana told News Night, adding that the bodies will thereafter be brought to their respective families.
Sobejana earlier said identification of the bodies proved to be a “hard task” as the victims were burned “beyond recognition.”
“Sunog na sunog po sila dahil hindi sila nakalabas nung sumabog ‘yung C-130,” he said in a separate interview with The Source.
[Translation: They were really burned as they were not able to get out of the plane when the C-130 exploded.]
Most of the victims were fresh graduates from military training.
Sobejana said they are using DNA tests and dental records to identify the charred remains.
Some of the wounded survivors are still in critical state, Sobejana said, as he expressed hope the death toll would not rise any further.
A team of burn specialists from Davao arrived in Zamboanga to help treat the injured, he added. Sobejana said they continue to coordinate with medical facilities — including those in Metro Manila, Davao, and Cebu City — regarding the possible transfer of wounded survivors.
Aid for victims
Families of the victims are set to receive assistance from the Philippine Army, which vowed financial assistance and psycho-social support for the bereaved kin.
Senator Pacquiao said he will also donate ₱50,000 to the families of those who died, and ₱20,000 for those injured.