'Bayanihan' sustains dig for dozens buried in Benguet landslide

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 18 2018 08:23 AM | Updated as of Sep 18 2018 09:18 AM

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ITOGON, Benguet - Some 100 volunteers on Tuesday continued to help authorities claw through mounds of rocky soil in this mountain town in search of dozens feared trapped 3 days after a landslide buried an emergency shelter. 

A portion of the mountain collapsed on the bunkhouses of small-scale miners and their families in Barangay Ucab on Saturday, as Typhoon Mangkhut mauled the northern Philippines with fierce winds and rains. 

Narrow roads in the area were still blocked with typhoon debris, preventing heavy equipment from reaching rescuers and forcing them to use only shovels and bare hands in their search for survivors, said Cordillera regional police director Chief Supt. Rolando Nana. 

"Dito po natin nakikita iyung bayanihan spirit ng Filipino kung saan hindi na kailangan tawagin [ang rescuers], kusa na po na nagpupunta doon," he told radio DZMM. 

(This is where we can see the bayanihan spirit of the Filipino. Rescuers need not be summoned, they go there voluntarily.) 

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Fourteen bodies have been pulled from the rubble while some 60 others remain missing, including several children of miners, said Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan. 

"Ang order ni President Duterte, ituloy natin [ang search operation] hanggang iyung kahuli-hulihang taong nand'yan pa," he told ABS-CBN's "Umagang Kay Ganda." 

(The order of the President is to continue the search until the last person there is found.) 

Tearful families surrounded a whiteboard bearing names of the dead and missing as others inspected recovered bodies for signs these could be their loved ones. 

Joan Catteg, 42, said her missing cousin Harvey had taken shelter at the bunkhouse.

"He texted his wife not to worry. He said nothing bad will happen to him and that once the rain stops, he will go up. But he hasn't returned until now." 

The dig is scheduled until 5 p.m. Authorities cannot risk exposing rescuers to the possibility of fresh landslides when rains hit the area late in the afternoon, said Nana. 

Rescuers retrieve bodies buried under tons of mud in Bgy. Ucab, Itogon Benguet on Tuesday. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Rescuers retrieve bodies buried under tons of mud in Bgy. Ucab, Itogon Benguet on Tuesday. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Rescuers retrieve one of the bodies buried under tons of mud in Bgy. Ucab, Itogon Benguet on Tuesday. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

More than 155,000 people remain in evacuation centers in the Philippines on Tuesday after Mangkhut -- the world's most powerful storm this year -- struck, said national police spokesman Benigno Durana.

Across northern Luzon, which produces much of the nation's rice and corn, farms were under muddy floodwater, their crops ruined just a month before harvest.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said that if it were up to him, he would seek an end to all mining practices in the country, following the Itogon landslide. 

With reports from Justin Aguilar, ABS-CBN News; Purple Romero and Laura Mannering, Agence France-Presse