x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

At least 25 killed in Philippines landslide

Another 150 are missing after a landslide buried gold prospectors in Mindanao.

PANTUKAN, PHILIPPINES // At least 25 people were killed in the southern Philippines yesterday when a landslide buried gold prospectors who had refused to leave an area declared too dangerous for habitation.

Up to 150 people were missing after the landslide hit a remote mountain community on Mindanao island that was settled by migrants in search of riches despite being declared off-limits last year because of the danger of landslides.

Rescuers using only hand-held tools pulled 25 bodies and 15 injured residents from the rubble in Napnapan, near the town of Pantukan, the civil defence chief, Benito Ramos, said.

"A military unit is in the area but they are basically digging with their hands."

Mr Ramos' agency, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, raised the number of missing to 150 people from an initial estimate of 100, and said the health department was transporting 150 body bags to the site.

The local government meanwhile said the rescue had been halted amid heavy rain and fears of more landslides.

Colonel Lyndon Paniza, who is coordinating the rescue from Pantukan, about two hours away via rugged mountain roads, said rescuers fear there could be more fatalities.

"We expect many were killed since the worst-hit was the middle, where there are more than 50 shanties," Col Paniza said.

The landslide buried an area measuring about 7,500 square metres as people slept.

The provincial government and mining firms have been asked to bring heavy equipment to the village.

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

"This had been declared a no-man's-land, where people are forbidden to live. Local officials must explain why people are still there despite the national government's warning," Mr Ramos said.

"It's obvious that the gold attracts them. We cannot guard the mountain 24/7 because we have other responsibilities."