MANILA: Rescuers used their bare hands and shovels to dig through mud today in a desperate search for survivors of a landslide in the Philippines as the number of missing nearly doubled to 90, an official said.
Two days after the rain-induced landslide hit the mountainous gold-mining village of Masara on southern Mindanao island, searchers were in a race against time and weather.
At least seven people were killed and 31 injured when the landslide destroyed houses and engulfed three buses and a jeep waiting for workers from a gold mine on Tuesday night.
Ninety people are missing, up from the previously reported 48, disaster agency official Edward Macapili of Davao de Oro province told AFP, citing police data.
“It is everybody’s hope that people are still alive,” Macapili said.
“Our rescue team is in a hurry because every second counts when it comes to human life.”
The landslide left a deep, brown gouge down the mountain.
Rescuers pulled a person alive from the mud 11 hours after it hit, Macapili said.
“So there’s a chance,” he added.
Police, soldiers and rescuers from Davao de Oro and the adjacent Davao del Norte province have been deployed to Masara to help the search and retrieval operation.
While rescuers were using heavy earth-moving equipment in places, they had to rely on their bare hands and shovels in areas where they believed there were bodies, Macapili said.
“The soil that covered the buses was very thick – it could almost cover a two-story building,” he said.
At least 20 mine workers are believed to be entombed in the vehicles.
Landslides are frequent hazards across much of the archipelago nation owing to the mountainous terrain, heavy rainfall and widespread deforestation from mining, slash-and-burn farming and illegal logging.
Rain has pounded parts of Mindanao on and off for weeks, triggering dozens of landslides and flooding that have forced tens of thousands of people into emergency shelters.
Huge earthquakes have also destabilised the region in recent months, science and technology secretary Renato Solidum said yesterday.
Hundreds of families from Masara and four nearby villages have had to evacuate from their homes and shelter in emergency centres for fear of further landslides.
The state weather forecaster has also warned that flash floods and landslides caused by moderate to heavy rain could strike the province in the coming days.
“I’m worried that there will be more heavy rains,” Macapili said.
“Of course that will affect the operations.”