MANILA - Rescuers have retrieved a total 9 bodies of miners from a bunkhouse buried in mud after a portion of a mountainside village in Itogon, Benguet collapsed at the height of the onslaught of typhoon Ompong over the weekend, police said Monday.
Chief Supt. Rolando Nana, Cordillera Regional Police Director, said about 44 more miners may still be buried in the landslide in Barangay Ucab and there will be no letup in their search for possible survivors.
"Kapag dumilim po, depende sa ground commander kung ititigil na niya. Pero papalitan ng fresh bodies na pupunta doon kasi 'yung mga andito mapapagod. May volunteers at 'yung iba tinutuloy-tuloy," he told DZMM Teleradyo.
Nana said since authorities can't bring heavy equipment in the steep landslide site, rescuers have been resorting to shovels and pickaxes for a couple of days now to dig through the thick mud and search for possible signs of life.
The police officer said members of the police's Special Action Forces, equipped with life detection radars, have been deployed to the site to help. They are hoping that weather would be fair in the next hours so the retrieval operations won't be hampered.
In an interview with DZMM Sunday, Supt. Felicita Tacio, Cordillera police's spokesperson, said the continuous rains in the past weeks softened the mountain slope of Itogon, making it more prone to landslides when Ompong came.
Tacio said the miners living in the old bunkhouse owned by Benguet Corporation were told to leave the area but a lot chose to stay. She said the miners were waiting for the rains to stop to resume work when the mountain slope collapsed.
"'Yung bumagsak kasi dito, isang buong bundok mula sa taas, kaya mahaba 'yung binabaan niya, kaya maraming nadamay," Tacio explained, adding that chances that rescuers would find survivors are very slim considering the incident happened Saturday noon.
Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan earlier said Ompong, the strongest typhoon to hit the country so far, triggered landslides in other barangays in the town. He blamed illegal mining in for these incidents.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu had ordered on Monday the stoppage of all small-scale mining activities in Cordillera following the massive landslides in the whole region.--with a report from Patrick Quintos, ABS-CBN News