25 dead, 100 missing in ComVal landslide

by Dharel Placido, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Jan 05 2012 07:52 AM | Updated as of Jan 05 2012 09:28 PM

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – A landslide killed 25 people and injured 15 more in a mountainside area in Pantukan, Compostela Valley province before dawn Thursday, local officials said. Around 100 more residents are feared to have been buried by the landslide

The Municipal Social Welfare and Development said the landslide occurred at 3:45 a.m. and affected families in Purok Diat Uno and Diat Dos in Barangay Napnapan.

A swath of land is eroded from the hillside in this picture in Bgy. Napnapan, Pantukan, Compostela Valley taken by Bayan Patroller Saul Pinggoy. The landslide happened in the early morning hours killing at least 25 people while around a hundred are feared buried. Photo by Saul Pinggoy, BMPM

Senior Inspector Werenfredo Reidor of Pantukan police said residents, mostly families of miners, have long been advised to vacate because of mining activities in the area, but they refused to leave. "Matagal na sila pinapaalis sa area kasi meron nang malaking leak sa taas ng bundok, pero nagmamatigas pa rin yun mga residente doon," he said.

Reidor said it had not been raining in the area where the landslide struck.

“Sa ngayon wala pong ulan dito, kaya lang medyo maambon, pero dun sa area na pinangyarihan ng landslide, wala rin pong ulan,” he said.

Saul Pinggoy, a small-scale miner from Diat Uno, admitted the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and local officials had advised miners to leave the area because of the danger of landslides.

“May babala na kasi dito yung municipality na mag-evacuate sila dito dahil may crack nga yung sa ibabaw [ng bundok] doon eh… talagang bibigay yung bundok, eh talagang bumigay na nga. Wala pong ulan nang mangyari ang insidente. Talagang maganda ang panahon,” he told dzMM.

He also said there are 50 bodies being retrieved from a mining tunnel called “700.”

Compostela Valley Gov. Arturo Uy said there has been a ban on mining activities in the area affected by the landslide, but some miners may have returned to search for gold.

He said he will order a forced evacuation for residents living in similar high-risk areas in the province.

What caused landslide?

PAGASA officer-in-charge Graciano Yumul said the province only experienced light rains overnight. He said heavy rains in northern Mindanao in the past days may have triggered the mountain soil to erode.

“Ang nagcause is ang ‘antecedent rainfall’, yung pag-ulan na nangyari bago ang lanslide, maidudugtong niyo na siya sa panahon ng Sendong kasi ang eastern Mindanao, kasama ang Compostela Valley, ay nakatangap ng maraming pag-ulan,” Yumul told dzMM.

“So ang nangyari, kauting tikitik na lang ng pag-ulan at ‘yun ang nangyari, siya na ang nagdulot ng landslide.”

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the government had warned residents in the area of a landslide threat because of a crack on top of the mountain that has grown wider over time.

“Mine-measure namin, lumalaki yung biyak sa ibabaw [ng bundok]. If you read articles at the time, we’ve been giving warning. We told that it is only a matter of time na bibigay yung mga lugar na iyon. Ito yung winarning namin sa kanila at the time,” Paje told dzMM.

“Ang agreement na namin, they (local government) will do forced evacuation. In fact, yung lugar na mismong tinamaan noon, nilikas dito sa baba. Subalit ang problema nila, eh talagang bumabalik ang tao,” he added.

Paje was referring to the landslide that occurred in Sitio Pangonason, Barangay Kingking in the same town April of last year where 13 persons died.

Davao quake

Executive Director Benito Ramos of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said a magnitude 3 quake that struck Davao Oriental at 12:01 a.m. may have contributed to the landslide.

The epicenter of the quake was located 121 kilometers east of Mati, Davao Oriental.

Davao Oriental is east of Compostela Valley.

Ramos said members of the 71st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army have been deployed to the area to help in the search and rescue operations.

Heavy equipment have also been sent in the landslide-hit areas.