Three men buried in collapsed tunnel in Sibulan presumed dead
Cebu City, Philippines – The rescue operation for the three men buried 27 feet underground in an alleged illegal mining site has turned into a retrieval operation as per directive from the Sibulan Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Office (MDRRMO) on Thursday morning, January 3, 2019.
Joy Baraquias, head of the Sibulan MDRRMO, told Cebu Daily News in a phone interview from Cebu that since the three have been buried for almost 24 hours and with water and mud still blocking any passageway of air, they were presumed dead.
The decision came after the assessment of the Municipal Health Officers and Emergency Medical Responders, who said the men could be dead because of the lack of oxygen in the collapsed tunnel.
The three men – Bobby Baldado, 32, Algie Javier, 28, and Boy Insilay, 61 – were trapped under the ground after the rain softened the soil and caused the tunnel, where the victims were working in a private property at Barangay Booc-booc, to collapse at around 10 a.m. of Wednesday, January 2.
A fourth member of their team, Mauro Alfonque, 44, survived the incident as he was buried only up to his chest.
Baraquias said that since the entrance of the tunnel remains dangerous for rescuers, they will be digging from the other side of the tunnel using a backhoe.
The end of the tunnel was estimated to have crossed the Barangay Sibulan road spanning 13 meters from the main entrance.
The MDRRMO received permission from C&Y Company, owner of the empty lot across the entrance of the mining site, for the rescuers to dig with a backhoe in attempt to locate the end of the tunnel.
“Kung ato pugson ato rescuers nga mosulod sa entrance, basin ato rescuers na ang i-rescue, ” said Baraquias. (If we force our rescuers to enter the tunnel through the primary entrance, we might end up rescuing our rescuers instead.)
She added that digging from the other end of tunnel may be easier for the rescuers to find the bodies of the missing men.
According to Police Inspector Mariela Mira, officer-in-charge of the Sibulan Police Station, the owner of the private property where the four miners began digging since November is owned by a certain Cristine Singh.
Mira said that Singh allegedly financed the operations believing that there was gold in the area.
Singh was arrested and was detained at the Sibulan Police Station after the incident was reported.
However, Mira said Singh was released at 2 a.m. Thursday, since no case can be filed against her yet without the retrieval of the miners’ bodies.
“Atong focus lang sa karon kay ang retrieval operations. Makit-an ang lawas mapasakaan sad na siyag kaso,” said Mira. (Our focus right now is the retrieval operations. If we find the bodies, we can file charges against her.)
Mira said that the police will be coordinating with the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources (PENRO) on the charges they will file against Singh. bjo
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