MANILA - (2ND UPDATE) Landslides triggered by rains brought by typhoon Ompong left at least 32 people dead and 29 more missing in Itogon, Benguet, the town's mayor said Sunday.
Mayor Victorio Palangdan said local officials have verified 32 deaths, 29 missing and 7 injured in the municipality as of Sunday. "32 ang total po na deaths. Out of the 32, identified na yung 27," he told radio DZMM.
He said some 300 families are currently staying in government evacuation centers.
Authorities are also trying to rescue more than 40 people trapped in a bunkhouse in Barangay Ucab that was buried in a landslide.
"May isang bunkhouse ng isang kompanya na may tinatayang 40-50 people trapped. Pero natabunan na ng lupa, 'yun ang inaalala namin baka patay lahat ng mga yun," the mayor said.
(A privately-owned bunkhouse with 40 to 50 people was buried in a landslide. We fear they might be dead.)
Senior Superintendent Lyndon Mencio, Benguet provincial police chief, said they have recovered 4 bodies from the landslide site.
"Nasa ibabaw kami ng mismong building na natabunan. Mukhang wala na po. May 4 nang nakuha dito sa area," Mencio, who was onsite, told DZMM.
(We're on top of the building that was buried. There seems to be no signs of life. We have already recovered 4 bodies in the area.)
Kennedy Waclin, chief of Barangay Ucab, said the rains brought by the southwest monsoon (habagat) had softened the earth even before the onslaught of typhoon Ompong.
"Grabe kasi 'yung dumaan na habagat parang nagunaw 'yung lupa. Tapos saka pumasok itong malakas na typhoon kaya medyo grabe ang gumuhong bundok," he told DZMM.
(The habagat rains were so heavy that the earth softened, and then the typhoon came. This is why there were landslides.)
Most of the residents of Barangay Ucab are miners, he said.
The mayor said the buried structure is an old Benguet Corporation bunkhouse that was being used by small-scale miners.
"We know for a fact that this area is dangerous because there is a big tunnel mined by Benguet Corporation a hundred years ago," the mayor said.
Palangdan blamed mining for the landslides in the town. He said he will stop mining operations that have caused sinkholes not only to Itogon but also in other cities and towns in Benguet.
"No more mining should be done in this municipality," he said.