MANILA- It was a tragedy that could have been prevented.
On Friday, Sept. 14, local policemen in the mining town of Itogon, Benguet appealed to local miners to abandon their bunkhouse and seek safer grounds as Typhoon Ompong (international name: Mangkhut) closes in on northern Luzon.
Photos released by the Itogon Police showed local policemen asking Edwin Banawol, a leader of a mining group, to convince his fellow miners to evacuate.
“Some were smiling and there were some who were just quiet. Some were listening to us,” Police Senior Inspector Heherson Zambale told the Associated Press (AP) in an interview.
Banawol and other miners, did not heed police's call. Banawol's remains were later among those pulled from mud and rubble.
"Nung nagdaang bagyo daw di sila naapektuhan doon, 'yan ang katwiran nila. Bumalik sila sa bahay sambahan nila 'yun. Pumunta pa dun na nagkakanta-kantahan sila," Benguet police chief Senior Supt. Lyndon Mencio told radio DZMM Thursday.
(They went back and reasoned that they will not be affected just like in the previous typhoons. They went back to their place of worship, singing songs.)
Ompong, the world's strongest typhoon this year, smashed through northern Luzon over the weekend, triggering floods and landslides in different parts of the country.
On Thursday, at least 57 people remain trapped under the mud in Itogon where a landslide buried bunk houses for miners, Mayor Victorio Palangdan told radio DZMM.
Of the hundreds digging through the debris, many were miners themselves who were looking for friends and relatives, determined to make sure they received a proper burial.
“I really feel sad, I cannot describe the emotion,” Zambale told AP.
“It’s not only the people who don’t listen. They have children, wives, elderly parents who will all suffer.”