25 dead, about 100 missing in Philippine landslide

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Pantukan (Philippines), Jan 5: At least 25 people were killed and about 100 others missing in the southern Philippines today after a landslide struck a community of gold prospectors, officials said.

The landslip hit a remote mountain community on Mindanao island that was declared off-limits last year due to the ever-present danger of landslides, but migrants in search of instant riches had ignored the warning, they added.

Rescuers using only spades and other hand tools pulled 25 bodies and 15 injured residents from the rubble after the landslide in Napnapan near Pantukan town at dawn, civil defence chief Benito Ramos told AFP.

"A military unit is in the area but they are basically digging with their hands," he told AFP. Local military official Colonel Lyndon Paniza, who is coordinating the rescue from Pantukan, about two hours away via rugged mountain roads, said rescuers fear there could be more fatalities.

"We expect many were killed since the worst-hit was the middle, where there are more than 50 shanties," Paniza told AFP. The landslide buried an area measuring about 7,500 square metres as people slept, Paniza added. Provincial governor Arturo Uy said more than 100 people were believed to be still buried under the collapsed mountainside.

Ramos however said the number of missing was an estimate based on figures from village officials. The provincial government and local mining firms have been asked to bring heavy equipment up to the village to help local troops speed up the rescue.

The area had been hit by rains unleashed from a storm off Mindanao's southeast coast, the state weather service said. Pantukan and nearby Monkayo town have drawn thousands of gold prospectors for years, and the largely unregulated mining activities have made the mountainside unstable and caused a series of deadly accidents.

Paniza said another landslide had occurred about two kilometres (just over a mile) away on April 22 last year. Local officials said that landslide had killed 14 people, while another in 2009 killed 26. 

AFP

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