2 dead, 40 missing in Compostela Valley landslide

By Claire Cornelio, ABS-CBN News – Two persons were killed, six were injured and 40 others are believed to be missing after a landslide hit a small-scale mining community in the municipality of Pantukan, Compostela Valley province on Friday.

Office of Civil Defense-Region 11 director Liza Mazo said the landslide was caused by heavy overnight rains.

“It’s been raining hard since last night here, causing a high-risk landslide area to give in, burying houses below,” Mazo said.

The landslide happened at around 2:30 a.m. at Purok Side B, Sitio Panganason, Barangay Kingking.

One fatality has been identified as Jan-jan Torejos, said to be around 15 to 16 years old. The other person killed has not been identified as of posting time.

As of 3 p.m. Friday, one body was still in the landslide-hit area while the other body was already at the municipal center in Pantukan,

Col. Roberto Domines, commander of the 1001st Brigade, 10th Infantry Division, told ANC on Friday noon that around 40 people are believed to be missing.

He said there is no confirmed number of missing persons since many of the small-scale miners are transients.

Even the municipal government of Pantukan does not know how many people live in the affected area, Domines said.

However, he added that “40 to 50 are reported to be missing.”

Search and rescue operations

Search and rescue operations are ongoing for the missing persons.

Three Air Force helicopters have been sent to transport survivors, rescuers and light equipment.

Domines said 3 platoons of regular soldiers plus a Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) has been posted in the affected area.

Seriously injured and brought to the Davao Regional Hospital were Jerry Costol, 21, and Mike Saret, 30.

Four others injured were brought to the Pantukan hospital. They were identified as Erwin Galorio, 20; Lambert Detros, 47; Zaffrey Tundag, 15; and, Rico Clase, 29.

Five others have been rescued and remained at the site as of posting time.

The victims are mostly miners working in the area.

A team from the OCD has been in the area to help in the rescue operations.

Domines said people from the community, the municipal government of Pantukan, the provincial government of Compostela, as well as mining companies which used to operate in the area are also assisting in the effort.

He welcomed offers to help, saying they need more heavy equipment to dig through the rubble.

Domines could not give an estimate of how many houses were buried in the landslide.

He said the affected area was “totally covered” when they flew over it.

The Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Council (MDRRC) has set up a crisis center at the Pantukan Municipal Hall.

Illegal small-scale mining

According to Pantukan Mayor Celso Sarenas, they had warned miners in the area of the risk of landslide, but this was not unheeded.

The affected area had been declared a danger zone due to some unstable portions of the mountain that could result to possible landslides.

Domines said the mining activities of the small-scale miners in upper Pantukan are illegal. He said the local government unit (LGU) is “helpless” in stopping the activity.

Even if the LGU gets to move them out, he said the small-scale miners often return.

A similar landslide also hit Kingking village and the nearby Napnapan village in May 2009, killing 21 people.

Oban expresses sympathy

In a statement, Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr., public affairs chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said K-9 dogs from the [1001st] brigade were on their way to the landslide area while a K-9 platoon, a medical team with ambulances, and a platoon of soldiers from the Division Headquarters have been put on alert for possible deployment.

He said the AFP has also mobilized reservists in Tagum and Compostela Valley Province with the Commanding Officer of the 71st Infantry Battalion acting as ground commander for AFP units deployed in the search and rescue operations.

Burgos said a military helicopter took off 9 a.m. today and “designated KingKing National High School as casualty evacuation point.”

Since gas stations are on holiday, he said the 71st Infantry Battalion provided fuel to deployed municipal heavy equipment.

AFP chief of Staff Eduardo Oban expressed sympathy to the affected community.

“The AFP expresses its sympathy to affected populace who are experiencing losses in the landslide. The AFP under local government units are working continuously to be able to rapidly respond with critically needed capabilities and supplies in times of crisis,” Oban said.

“The role of the AFP during any humanitarian assistance/disaster response is to rapidly respond with critically needed supplies and support to help mitigate human suffering and prevent further loss of life,” he said. — with ANC

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