Photo courtesy of Army 10th Infantry Division

At least 25 people were killed while about 150 were left missing when a landslide hit a small-scale mining area in Pantukan, Compostela Valley, early Thursday, authorities said.

Colonel Leopoldo Galon, Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command spokesman, said 25 bodies were retrieved and 15 injured persons were pulled from the mud and rocks that collapsed at Sitios Diat 1 and 2 in Brgy. Napnapan.

The landslide, which occurred around 3 am, destroyed at least 50 houses in the gold panning areas, he said.

“Heavy rains caused by a low-pressure area two days ago and an Intensity-3 earthquake in neighboring Davao Oriental may have caused the landslide,” Benito Ramos, administrator of the Office of Civil Defense, said.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, citing a report from a municipal officer of Pantukan, said more or less 150 persons, mostly small-scale miners, were missing.

‘No man’s land’

The landslide-hit area of Sitio Diat 1 is near another mining area in Brgy. Kingking where a similar incident left several people dead in April, Lt. Colonel Lyndon Paniza, spokesman of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, said.

“No man’s land na ‘yun… nabigyan na sila (residents) ng babala tapos nag-forced evacuation pa ‘yung lokal na pamahalaan ng Pantukan, kaso bumalik na naman sila,” Ramos said when asked why there were still people in the area.

“Ang attraction kasi ng gold malakas, kaya maski hindi puwede, puwede sa kanila. They were forced to leave the area noong April 11, tatlong secretary pa ang nagpunta diyan, sa DENR si (Ramon) Paje, (Jesse) Robredo ng DILG, at saka si (Voltaire) Gazmin ng National Defense, nabigyan na sila ng babala,” Ramos added.

Officials probed

Robredo, meanwhile, ordered an investigation on the possible liability of local government officials for their alleged failure to implement government-imposed measures to stop illegal mining activities in Pantukan.

“The Compostela Valley governor, the Pantukan town mayor, and the barangay chairman of Panganason were all aware of the hazards in the area as declared by the DENR last October. Yes, they ordered a forced evacuation against the illegal miners in the high-risk mining site but they apparently were not able to stop them from coming back in the area,” Robredo said in a statement.

Senior Inspector Gretchin Cinco, Southern Mindanao regional police deputy spokesperson, said rescue and retrieval operations were still ongoing as of Thursday afternoon.

Soldiers, policemen, a military helicopter, and dump trucks from the local government have been sent to help in the rescue and retrieval operations, she said. (John Roson)

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