Twelve people were killed and dozens were missing after a landslide unleashed by monsoon rains struck Thursday in Naga City, Cebu.
The new tragedy comes just days after the year’s most powerful storm, Typhoon “Ompong” (international name: Mangkhut), pounded the nation’s north with heavy winds and rain, sparking a separate landslide that left dozens dead.
Emergency workers in helmets and locals with shovels rushed to search for survivors of the new disaster, which happened in the village of Tinaan in Cebu.
Days of heavy monsoon rains caused a steep slope of crumbly limestone to collapse and crash into at least 10 homes early Thursday when many people would still have been in bed.
“Even four-story houses are buried,” said witness John Rhay Repuesto Echavez, who also saw the human toll of the landslide.
“[My neighbor] was crying right in front of her sister’s house. There was nothing left, not even the rooftop was visible,” he told AFP. “Her sister’s whole family was buried.”
Injured survivors were wheeled into the back of ambulances and the dead were laid on pews at a local church.
“We have 12 dead now,” civil defense spokesman Julius Regner told AFP, adding at least 50 people were still believed missing.
“There are more than 100 rescuers on the site. They are using backhoes [excavators] and other heavy equipment,” he added.
Civil defense officials in the region said landslides are fairly rare on Cebu, an elongated island with low hills.
As Thursday’s search for survivors unfolded, efforts continued in the hunt for bodies in the mining area of Itogon, Benguet, in the mountainous north, the area worst hit by the typhoon.
Most of those killed in the storm died in landslides in the Cordillera range, which includes Itogon and other towns in a region known for gold mining.
Police said on Thursday that the death toll rose to 88, primarily due to corpses recovered from the Itogon landslide.
Ompong swamped fields in the nation’s agricultural north and smashed houses when it tore through at the weekend.
Itogon is one of the country’s oldest mining hubs, with known gold panning activity stretching back to before the 17th-century Spanish colonial conquest.
Thousands of people from all over the country still flock to the upland town seeking their fortune in largely unregulated mining, which is accompanied by periodic deadly accidents.
The Palace said the government would study all options to prevent further loss of life following the deadline landslide in Cebu, and would extend assistance to the victims of the latest disaster.
The series of landslides led Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to declare a halt to small-scale mining in the entire Cordillera Administrative Region.
The Palace on Wednesday already said the government wants to implement rehabilitation projects in areas of CAR similar to the cleanup in Boracay.
President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, has raised the possibility that he may ask Congress to repeal the mining law to shut down the industry.
Apo Land and Quarry Corp., which has quarrying rights to the area hit by the landslide, said it has not yet started operations there.
“Operating in the area is not part of our pipeline this year or next year,” a company representative, Chito Maniago, told the ANC news channel.
A statement issued by the company said it was cooperating with the local government in search and rescue operations. With AFP
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