Philippine landslide buries mine tents; 21 missing

AP News
Posted: Apr 22, 2011 7:49 AM
Philippine landslide buries mine tents; 21 missing

A landslide buried shanties, tents and illegal mine shafts in a southern Philippines village Friday, killing three people and leaving at least 21 missing.

Soldiers, police and miners used shovels and their bare hands to dig out 11 survivors from the mud, rock and debris that cascaded onto clusters of shanties and bunkhouses after a downpour as people slept before dawn in a village near Pantukan town in Compostela Valley province.

Officials deployed bulldozers and backhoes, but small landslides delayed their arrival. Three air force helicopters helped ferry the injured to safety and move rescue equipment and security forces into the communist rebel-infested area, Pantukan Mayor Celso Sarenas said.

The dead included a 16-year-old miner dug out from the mud and two men pinned by huge wooden poles that collapsed at a shaft entrance where they had attempted to seek cover from the tons of mud and debris roaring down the mountain, Sarenas said.

Many people initially listed as missing turned out to be alive after authorities checked with the survivors and fellow miners. The 21 missing as of evening were mostly illegal gold miners and their families who built bunkhouses and shanties near where they eke out a living by digging in narrow, dangerous shafts, Sarenas said.

It is difficult to know if more people are missing because transients temporarily camp there while searching for gold, he said.

Dozens of soldiers, police and militiamen have arrived by foot and helicopter to help in the search and rescue, which was being hampered by the muddy terrain, a drizzle and the gathering darkness late Friday, Army Col. Roberto Domines said.

Sarenas said the miners have long been warned to stay away from the disaster-prone area.

"We have warned them repeatedly of the danger there, but they wouldn't listen," Sarenas told The Associated Press by telephone from Pantukan, about 580 miles (930 kilometers) southeast of Manila.

A landslide in the same village, Kingking, and a nearby community in 2009 killed 21 people, including children, officials said.