Philippine landslide leaves 1 dead, 40 missing

MANILA, PHILIPPINES—A landslide loosened by a downpour buried bunkhouses and entryways to gold-mining tunnels before dawn Friday, leaving one miner dead and about 40 others missing in a remote mountain area in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Army troops, policemen and other miners rescued five men and a woman who were trapped in the landslide and in one tunnel in a remote village in Pantukan town in Compostela Valley province. Air force helicopters, bulldozers and backhoes have been deployed to help in the search and rescue, Pantukan Mayor Celso Sarenas said.

The missing were mostly illegal gold miners and their families who have long been warned to stay away from the landslide-prone area. Authorities have closed some of the tunnels to discourage illegal mining, he said.

“We have warned them repeatedly of the danger there but they wouldn’t listen,” Sarenas told the Associated Press from Pantukan, which is in a gold-rich mountainous region about 930 kilometres southeast of Manila.

A similar landslide struck the village of Kingking — the site of Friday’s accident — and a nearby community in 2009, leaving 21 dead, including children, officials said.

Illegal miners and their families have defied government warnings and built bunkhouses and shanties near where they eke out a living by digging in narrow, dangerous shafts, where accidents are common. Friday’s landslide buried a still unknown number of those bunkhouses and entryways to nearby tunnels, Sarenas said.

Army Lt. Col. Camilo Ligayo said one air force helicopter was standing by to ferry those who would be rescued to a hospital. Two other air force Huey choppers were deployed to secure the landslide-hit area from communist guerrillas, who are active in the province.

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