Hopes fade for 21 buried in Philippine landslide

Landslide buried shanties, tents, illegal mine shafts in Philippine village.

Updated: Apr 23, 2011, 21:43 PM IST

Manila: Filipino rescuers fighting to save
people buried by a landslide are losing hope of finding 21
still missing in the disaster that killed at least three
people in a remote gold mining village, officials said on Saturday.

The shanties and tents where miners and some of their
families slept were buried under about 100 feet of mud, soil,
rocks and other debris after they were struck by the landslide
before dawn yesterday, Compostela Valey provincial Governor
Arturo Uy said.

Uy said landmarks that could help rescuers locate
bunkhouses and tunnel entrances also were destroyed when tons
of rain-soaked debris cascaded down a mountain in the village
of Kingking in Pantukan township in the country`s south.

Soldiers, police and miners used shovels and their bare
hands to dig out 11 survivors.

"Honestly, I believe it would be very hard to find
survivors," Uy said today.

The landslide covered at least 2.5 acres, said provincial
police chief Aaron Aquino.

Some of the survivors escaped after they heard a rumbling
sound, Aquino said.

Aerial pictures show a green mountain scarred by a brown
swath of earth where rocks and debris had rolled down.

Blue tarpaulin roofing sheets and the broken remains of
shanties littered the area and tree trunks snapped like
matchsticks indicating the force of the mudslide. Many other
shanties that were still standing perched precariously on
mountainsides and ridges.

Uy said he would recommend a 30-day suspension of
small-scale mining in the village while geologists determine
whether it is safe.

He said that after a similar landslide which killed 26
people in a nearby village two years ago, residents signed a
memorandum not to build homes but some "hardheaded" miners
defied the agreement.

"It is illegal, but we cannot just stop their operation,"
he said of the miners who eke out a living by digging for gold
in narrow, dangerous shafts.