Philippine: Search for missing resumes

2012-01-06 09:31

Manila - Philippine rescuers resumed the search on Friday for up to 150 people who remained missing a day after a deadly landslide buried a remote gold mining community in the country's south, the military said.

At least 25 people were killed on Mindanao island before dawn on Thursday when a rock and mud avalanche buried a mountain settlement of gold prospectors who had refused to leave an area declared too dangerous for habitation.

A group of volunteers prepared to go up the gold rush site to help about 140 soldiers and police there, who resumed the search at first light as the rains ceased, local military spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Lyndon Paniza said.

"We're not losing hope in our search for survivors. We will not shift to [corpse] retrieval mode until 72 hours had passed," he told AFP in a telephone interview from Pantukan town, where more rescuers are being mustered.

Rescuers are pushing tubes into the mouths of mine shafts that tunnel into the mountainside in the hope that some trapped miners could still be alive in them, but so far there had been no signs of life, he conceded.

Pantukan and nearby Monkayo, both on the west flank of Mindanao's Pacific Cordilleras mountains, have drawn gold prospectors for years despite frequent, deadly landslides.

Their largely unregulated tunnelling have made the mountainside unstable, government experts say, and heavy rains since last month had saturated the earth on top, helping to trigger the earthfall.

The government said the miners had been told to leave the area as early as 2008, but local officials failed to enforce the ban.

After the latest disaster, Paniza said the local government ordered the rest of the community of about 1 000 people to leave the area immediately amid concern of more landslips.

"Many of the victims' relatives want to help out in the rescue but they have no knowledge of the proper rescue techniques," Paniza said.

"The area is still critical and we expect other portions to eventually cave in."

The survivors will be forced to relocate to a flatter area about 1.5km away, he added.