Sat, Jan 07, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Rescuers search for bodies after Philippine landslide

AP, MANILA

People return to their homes after they were taken down by a landslide in Napnapan village, Compostela Valley province, Philippines, yesterday.

Photo: EPA

Authorities resumed searching yesterday for victims of a landslide that killed at least 22 people when it slammed into a remote Philippine gold-mining village where miners work their small-scale claims with pickaxes.

Early reports of as many as 100 additional people missing were overblown, officials said, but they added that they had no good estimate of how many people remained unaccounted for.

The landslide came down with a loud whoosh hours before dawn on Thursday on a mountainside dotted with mine shafts and crude shanties with corrugated metal roofs in Napnapan village in the southern province of Compostela Valley.

“It was like a dump truck unloading gravel and sand,” survivor Darwin Aguinawon, 27, said. “In only three seconds, our house came rolling down the slope.”

It was the area’s second deadly landslide in a year — 20 were killed in a neighboring village in April — and it prompted the environment secretary to call for curbing permits in the region’s small-scale mining industry.

Initial reports of about 100 missing were based solely on the number of shanties believed to be hit by the landslide, but many of their residents would have been away on holiday or had evacuated hours earlier when the ground started moving, Pantukan town spokesman Arnulfo Lantayan said.

“We are very confident that it will not reach that number,” he said.

The municipal disaster office lowered its earlier death toll of 25, as reported by residents and village leaders, to 22, based on the number of bodies recovered, Lantayan said.

It was difficult to determine the number of missing because local authorities have no reliable records of the mostly migrant miners who work in the area with their families, Philippine Civil Defense Chief Benito Ramos said.

Officials agreed that far fewer than 100 people were missing in the disaster.

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