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Rescuers dig with bare hands in search for landslide survivors


ZAMBOANGA CITY: Philippine military and civilian rescuers continued searching on Sunday for missing villagers buried alive in a landslide that hit a mountain community in the southern province of Compostela Valley in Mindanao, officials said.

According to the officials, the rescuers were frantically digging by hands through mud and bolders in Pantukan town where as many as 50 people were earlier reported buried after a portion of the mountain collapsed at dawn of Friday.

“Rescuers are digging through mud with their bare hands in an effort to find any survivors. At least three of seven tunnels used by small-scale miners were buried in the landslide,” said Army Maj. Rosa Maria Cristina Manuel, a spokesman for the 10th Infantry Division.

Manuel added that three people were confirmed dead and that 13 others have been rescued since Friday in the village of Panganason, a known gold-rush area in the town.

Heavy rains since last week have loosened mud and bolders, triggering the landslide.

Meteorological experts earlier warned of more rains in central and eastern parts of Mindanao because of the cold front affecting the weather system in southern Philippines.

“The rescue efforts are really difficult because there are no more access roads where bulldozers can pass. Rescuers are now resorting to digging by hands, sticks and anything they can use to find survivors or bodies,” Manuel said.

Secretary Voltaire Gazmin of the Department of National Defense flew to Compostela Valley from Manila to oversee the rescue efforts.

“The Defense secretary was briefed about the progress of the rescue efforts,” Manuel said.

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