Landslide Death Toll Rises to 68 in Southern Philippines

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MANILA, Philippines: The death toll from a devastating landslide that struck a gold-mining village in the southern Philippines has risen to 68, according to officials. Search and rescue efforts have been ongoing for nearly a week, but hopes of finding any more survivors have been abandoned.

In the mountainous Masara village on Mindanao island, hundreds of rescuers, armed with nothing but their bare hands, shovels, and heavy earth-moving equipment, have been tirelessly working to uncover those buried under the debris. However, the chances of finding anyone alive at this point are slim.

As of the latest official figures released by the municipal government, more than a dozen bodies were recovered from the mud on Monday, while 51 people, including mine workers and villagers, are still missing.

Edward Macapili, spokesman for the Davao de Oro provincial disaster office, expressed the grim reality of the situation, stating, “It is almost a week after the incident, and… we are assuming that no one is alive there. There is already a foul smell in the area now, so there’s a need to fast-track the retrieval.”

Although efforts have been exhaustive, there remains an area approximately 50 meters (164 feet) deep that has yet to be searched. Macapili emphasized the urgency to complete the retrieval process.

In a remarkable turn of events, a three-year-old girl was miraculously pulled alive from under the rubble on Friday, providing a glimmer of hope amidst the tragedy.

The landslide engulfed three buses and a jeepney that were waiting for employees of a gold mining firm, as well as 55 nearby houses, leaving 32 others injured.

Authorities have made a commitment to continue the search until all those who are missing are recovered.

Landslides are a recurring hazard across the Philippines, primarily due to the country’s mountainous terrain, heavy rainfall, and widespread deforestation caused by mining, slash-and-burn farming, and illegal logging.

The island of Mindanao has experienced persistent rain over the past few weeks, triggering numerous landslides and floods. As a result, tens of thousands of people have been forced into emergency shelters.

Furthermore, the region has been destabilized by massive earthquakes in recent months, exacerbating the vulnerability of the area to natural disasters.

The tragic landslide in the gold-mining village of Masara serves as a stark reminder of the risks faced by communities living in areas prone to landslides. The Philippine government, along with local authorities, must prioritize measures to mitigate these risks and protect the lives and livelihoods of its citizens.

Efforts should include stricter regulations on mining practices, reforestation initiatives to combat deforestation, and the implementation of early warning systems to alert residents of impending landslides. Additionally, educating communities on safety protocols during natural disasters is crucial to ensure their preparedness and resilience.

As the recovery and retrieval operations continue in Masara, the nation mourns the loss of lives and prays for the safe return of those still missing. It is a somber reminder of the fragility of human existence and the importance of collective action in safeguarding vulnerable communities from the devastating impacts of natural disasters.

Source: The Manila Times

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