At least 7 killed, dozens missing in Mindanao mining landslide

By: Frinston Lim - | February 08,2024 - 11:32 AM

Rescue operations

RESCUE, FIRST-AID OPS A rescue team of the Philippine Army’s 60th Infantry Battalion (left photo) arrives in Tagum, Davao del Norte, with one of the injured airlifted from the site of Feb. 6 landslide in Maco, Davao de Oro. —PHOTO FROM THE PHILIPPINE ARMY AND PHILIPPINE RED CROSS

MACO, DAVAO DE ORO —Authorities here say seven people are dead and at least 40 others remain missing after a landslide in a gold mining village in this town.

Mayette Bagaan and her husband, Robernant, were among who would survive from this tragic incident. They who usually worked overtime at Apex Mining Co.,

On Tuesday, however, they finished work earlier than usual and caught the company vehicle at 3 p.m. to go home from the mining site’s transport depot.

“We felt something was amiss. It seemed everything was off,” Mayette, 42, told the Inquirer. Adding to her apprehension was the sight earlier that day of small stones and mud rolling down the side of the hill in the area where they worked at Barangay Masara, she said.

It was a hunch that would save the couple’s lives. Later that night, she got a call from a neighbor and Apex coworker telling her of a massive disaster at Masara that left her stunned.

Death toll at 7

“I couldn’t believe what I heard,” she said. After a few more calls, she learned that three relatives living in the village—a couple and their son—were among the persons reported missing after a landslide buried parts of Masara past 7:30 p.m.

As of Wednesday night, authorities had confirmed the death of at least seven people, with more than 40 others still missing.

At least 31 people were injured—many literally pulled out of the mud—in the rain-induced landslide that engulfed two Apex Mining buses and several houses in the mountainous area. The buses had been outside a gold mine operated by the listed company.

The landslide trapped at least 20 people inside two buses used to transport mine workers, provincial disaster official Edward Macapili told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

In Manila, the military on Wednesday said 46 people were still missing while three others were in critical condition.

At least 28 people were on board the buses when the landslide hit, but eight managed to escape unhurt through the windows before the mud engulfed them, Macapili said.

No warning

Five bodies were pulled from the mud, he said, but it was not clear if they were on the bus. Of 31 injured villagers, two were seriously hurt and airlifted to a hospital in Davao City for treatment.

“There was no sign that a landslide would occur because the rains stopped on Thursday and by Friday it was already sunny and hot,” Macapili said.

He said an earthquake shook the village shortly after the landslide. The search effort was halted at midnight because it was too hazardous to continue, but resumed at daylight, Macapili said.“Rescue work is hampered by limited visibility and intermittent slides,” Apex Mining said in a statement on its website.

READ MORE: 45 mine workers rescued from Davao Oro landslide; 41 still missing

Military personnel have been deployed to help in the rescue efforts.

“The roads remain impassable, and there is no cell phone signal in the area,” the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) said on Facebook Wednesday.

Rain has pounded parts of Mindanao off and on for weeks, forcing tens of thousands into emergency shelters.

At least 18 people died from landslides and flooding in the region last week, the national disaster agency said in its latest update.

Mass evacuation

Col. Rosa Ma. Cristina Rosete-Manuel, spokesperson of EastMinCom, said 86 employees of Apex Mining got trapped in the landslide, based on information provided by the company.

Around 600 individuals, or 86 families, from Masara and neighboring communities have been evacuated to safer ground. “However, there are reports of unaccounted individuals believed to be affected by the landslide,” she said.

The AFP report, however, placed the number of evacuated families at 285.

While it happened outside the mining site of Apex, the company said the landslide area “is where buses that ferry employees of the mining company wait for its passengers.”

Rosete-Manuel said rescue operations resumed Wednesday morning after Davao de Oro Rep. Ruwel Peter Gonzaga ordered a suspension due to hazardous conditions at the site.In a statement, Apex Mining said its Davao de Oro mine site was operating on a limited basis to help in the rescue operations.

The company said four 60-seater buses and one 36-seater jeep were waiting for outgoing employees before the landslide happened.

“One bus had left for Mawab while the rest were still waiting when the landslide occurred, its debris covering the terminal,” it added.

Aside from its Maco gold mine in Davao de Oro, the company, through subsidiary Itogon-Suyoc Resources Inc., has other mining assets in Benguet province, namely the Sangilo mine in Itogon and the Suyoc mine in Mankayan. —With reports from AFP, Nestor Corrales and Jordeene Lagare

READ MORE: Landslide-affected residents in Brgy Sudlon II, Cebu City told by MGB-7 to relocate

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TAGS: Davao de oro, landslide, Mindanao

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