Death toll now rises to 20 in Compostela Good Friday landslide; 33 missing, 11 rescued

by Ben Serrano

     April 22, 2011


            TRENTO, Agusan del Sur (PNA)  - As rescuers entered into almost second day in their difficult search, rescue and retrieval efforts, death toll now have rose to twenty as of 6 p.m. today with eleven persons rescued and estimated 33 still missing on early dawn Good Friday landslide in the mountainous area of Sitio Panganason, Barangay. Kingking, Pantukan, Compostela Valley Province.


            Pantukan, Compostela Valley Mayor Celso Sarenas in a mobile phone interview claimed 20 were killed in latest report from the field so far as of 6 p.m. today Good Friday due landslide. 

           Sarenas said many have been feared dead because majority of the victims were sleeping in their respective tunnels when boulders of sand, soil and gravels cascaded down into the tunnels of the sleeping small-scale miners. 


            Sarenas said minors who were children of small-scale miners were in their parents’ tunnels at the time of the tragic landslide because it is vacation time and some served allegedly as lookouts for their tunnels


            The two mountains caved in due soil erosion to Panganason Creek in Upper Pantukan which is one of the gold rush site areas in Compostela and Agusan del Sur valleys known as “Valleys of Gold” which are situated ironically in a landslide prone areas and earthquake fault lines.


           This town, Trento sits at the boundary of Compostela Valley and Agusan del Sur provinces. Trento mountain ranges are interconnected to the Pantukan Mountain ranges which are known “gold rich areas”.


            Earlier Col. Roberto Domines, Commanding Officer of the 1001st Infantry Brigade Philippine Army in a mobile phone interview told PNA an estimated 50 small-scale miners were missing with three already confirmed dead (now rose to 20) and eleven rescued.


            “The rescued small-scale miners are already brought to Pantukan, Compostela Valley Municipal Hall and soon they will be brought to hospital, clinics for medical treatment” Domines said.


            Domines said small-scale miners in Upper Pantukan come from different areas in Compostela Valley and Davao provinces while some are from Caraga region looking for livelihood in search for gold ores.


            So far authorities only provided one identified fatality named Jan-jan Torejos, said to be around 15 to 16 years old.


            Region Eleven Office of Civil Defense regional director Liza Mazo said the landslide was caused by heavy overnight rains.


Mazo said the landslide happened at around 2:30 a.m. at Purok Side B, Sitio Panganason, Barangay Kingking.


Search and rescue operations are ongoing for the missing persons. An Air Force helicopter is helping in the operations to airlift survivors.


Seriously injured and brought to the Davao Regional Hospital were Jerry Costol, 21, and Mike Saret, 30.


Four others injured brought to Pantukan District Hospital were identified as Zaffrey Tundag, 15; Rico Clase, 29 who hails from Agusan del Sur, Erwin Galorio, 20 from Bayugan City and Lambert Detros, 47.


Five others have been rescued and remained at the site as of press time.


The victims are mostly miners working in the area.


A team from the Office of the Civil Defense has been in the area to help in the rescue operations.


Domines said municipal government of Pantukan, the provincial government of Compostela Valley, community people as well as mining companies both large-scale and small-scale which used to operate in the area were assisting in all efforts.


Domines could not give an estimate of how many houses were buried in the landslide.


He said the affected area was "totally covered" when they flew over it.


The Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Council (MDRRC) has set up a crisis center at the Pantukan Municipal Hall.


According to Pantukan Mayor Celso Sarenas, they had warned miners in the area of the risk of landslide, but this was not unheeded.


The landslide area had been declared a danger zone due to some unstable portions of the mountain that could result to possible landslides.


A similar landslide also hit Kingking village and the nearby Napnapan village in May 2009, killing 21 people. ( PNA/Ben Serrano)

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