The toll of dead and missing from a powerful earthquake that struck Negros Oriental has risen to 113 as the civil defense chief said yesterday he had given up all hope of finding any more survivors.

Benito Ramos, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council chief, told AFP the latest toll from the 6.7 magnitude quake which struck the central island of Negros on February 6 was 52 dead and 61 missing.

He added that army engineers were continuing to dig on the heavily-populated island because of the clamor of people insisting that the bodies of their relatives be found.

“It is hopeless. I don’t think we can find all the 61 missing because of the amount of soil that eroded. That is equivalent to about 164 feet thick of earth,” he said.

“But I will not say they are already dead because of the sentiments of the people. There are so many who will shower me with protests if we declare them already dead,” he added

Ramos said the excavation work was ongoing despite dangers of further landslides caused by aftershocks and heavy rain.

More than 191,000 people were displaced by the quake after landslides buried homes. Almost 24,000 are still huddled in government in government evacuation centers, the disaster council said.AFP