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TAGUM, Philippines: This handout photo by the Philippine Army shows Philippine soldiers transferring a landslide survivor from a helicopter to an ambulance. — AFP
TAGUM, Philippines: This handout photo by the Philippine Army shows Philippine soldiers transferring a landslide survivor from a helicopter to an ambulance. — AFP
7 dead in landslide at goldmining village in Philippines

MANILA: At least seven people were killed and 31 injured when a rain-induced landslide hit a gold-mining village in a mountainous region of the southern Philippines, officials said Wednesday. The landslide Tuesday night struck Masara in Davao de Oro province on Mindanao island, provincial disaster official Edward Macapili told AFP, destroying houses and engulfing three buses and a jeepney waiting for mine workers. Rescuers were digging through mud to find 48 people reported missing, including at least 20 people trapped inside the vehicles, officials said. At least 28 people were on board the vehicles when the landslide hit, but eight managed to escape unhurt through the windows before the mud engulfed them, Macapili said.

The buses and jeepney had been outside a gold mine operated by the Philippine company Apex Mining where they drop off and pick up workers. Initial reports said two buses were hit by the landslide, but Apex Mining said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that three 60-seater buses and a 36-person-capacity jeepney were impacted. A fourth bus had left before the mud swamped the area, the firm said, adding that 62 employees were safe while 45 were missing.

Landslides are frequent hazards across much of the archipelago nation owing to the mountainous terrain, heavy rainfall and widespread deforestation from mining, slash-and-burn farming and illegal logging. Science and Technology Secretary Renato Solidum said a number of huge earthquakes had destabilized the region in recent months.

“Every time there’s a major earthquake we have to worry about multiple landslides every time the rains come,” Solidum told a disaster briefing attended by President Ferdinand Marcos. Aerial video showed a deep, brown gouge down the side of a forested mountain that reaches the village below where a number of houses had been destroyed. Land above the landslide appears to have been cleared for crops.

Rescue teams from across the region have been deployed to help search the large area under mud, Macapili said. “We have equipment but we’re mostly doing it manually because digging with backhoes is dangerous as you don’t know if there are people trapped beneath the debris,” he said.

Seven bodies have been pulled out so far, an official from the Maco municipal disaster agency said. Among the 31 villagers injured in the landslide, two were seriously hurt and were airlifted to a hospital in Davao city for treatment, Macapili said. “There was no sign that a landslide would occur because the rains stopped on Thursday and by Friday it was already sunny and hot,” he added.

The official 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, he said. In a statement to the Philippine Stock Exchange, Apex Mining said it had reduced operations as it assists the rescue effort with equipment, personnel and food.

Meanwhile, hundreds of families from Masara and four nearby villages have been forced to evacuate from their homes and shelter in emergency centers. Rain has pounded parts of Mindanao off and on for weeks, forcing tens of thousands into shelters.—AFP

At least 18 people died from landslides and flooding in the region last week, the national disaster agency said in its latest update, as the northeast monsoon and a low-pressure trough brought downpours.

A powerful magnitude 7.6 earthquake struck off the east coast of Mindanao in December, briefly triggering a tsunami warning, and was followed by a series of major aftershocks. Earthquakes regularly strike the Philippines, which sits along the Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of intense seismic and volcanic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin. — AFP

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