MANILA - Mountain slopes collapsed and buried people alive in at least 5 villages in the town of Itogon in Benguet at the height of typhoon Ompong over the weekend, police said Wednesday.
As of recent tally, Benguet police chief Senior Superintendent Lyndon Mencio said a total 46 people were killed in 5 separate landslides in the town of Itogon alone.
Mencio said the largest number of fatalities were recorded in a mining site in Barangay Ucab where 21 bodies have been recovered in a bunkhouse buried by a 300-meter landslide.
The police officer said his men urged residents there to flee a day before the typhoon. They initially followed, but immediately returned thinking nothing bad will happen.
"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," he told DZMM.
(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.)
Mencio said they have been urging residents there to flee because earth was very loose in the area due to the rains dumped by the southwest monsoon or habagat over the past weeks.
Rescuers continue to dig through mud in Ucab with their bare hands, shovels, and pickaxes. The police officer said it may take more time to recover all the estimated 30 miners buried in mud.
Aside from Barangay Ucab, rescuers have also retrieved 17 bodies in the landslide in Loacan village, 4 in Poblacion, and 2 each in Virac and Ampucao.
"Isang buwan na kasi umuulan dito sa Benguet kaya lumambot na ang lupa. Talagang malambot na ang lupa. Ang nag-trigger talaga ng landslide ang bagyo," he added.
(The earth has softened in these slopes in Benguet because of it's been raining for a month. The earth was very loose. The typhoon triggered the landslide.)