ZAMBOANGA CITY: Rescuers are now being aided by swarms of houseflies in locating buried bodies in a mountain village in Mindanao struck by landslide last week.
So far, 13 people had been rescued in Compostela Valley’s Pantukan town where 14 bodies have been recovered and 11 more are still missing in the landslide that buried at least 20 houses, mostly owned by gold miners.
On Tuesday, five more bodies were recovered from the site. Of the total 13 cadavers, two remain unidentified, said Army Major Rosa Maria Cristina Manuel, a spokeswoman for the 10th Infantry Division.
Manuel said rescuers were relying on swarms of houseflies in their search for bodies buried under mud and boulders.
“The flies are a big help in the retrieval operations because they swarm around the area where bodies are buried deep in the mud and true enough the bodies are there,” she said.
Manuel said at least 110 shanties were demolished on Wednesday by their owners after local government authorities in Compostela Valley’s Pantukan town ordered their evacuation barely a week after the tragedy struck.
Many of those who were evacuated have been brought to temporary shelters in the town. “Relief goods from different donors were distributed to the evacuation centers,” she said.
At the same time, a 22-man demolition team was sent Wednesday to the landslide-hit village to evacuate residents and continue retrieval operations.
The team, composed of personnel from the municipal engineering office, went to Kingking village in Pantukan town to tear down at least 52 shanties.
This was done after occupants defied an earlier agreement with local officials to evacuate the disaster-stricken area within 24 hours, according to Major Jacob Obligado, civil-military officer of the 10th Infantry Division.
In a separate interview, Lt. Col. Leopoldo Galon, spokesman of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command, said the structures are being demolished to prevent the residents from returning to the specific area that had been declared not fit for habitation.
Pantukan Mayor Celso Sarenas earlier told residents to leave the area after environment experts warned of another landslide due to the presence of a 70-meter long fissure that straddles the community.
“They (residents) will be relocated nearby. They will not be allowed to return to that specific area because of the cracks on the ground and there is risk of erosion especially during rains,” Galon said.
The landslide occurred around 2:30 a.m. Friday at Kingking village following a heavy downpour.
Galon said rescuers will also recover a body which was found last Tuesday by a group of civilians who persisted on locating on their relatives despite initial notice by authorities to halt the retrieval operations.
“It will focus in a specific site involving 14 volunteers,” he said.
Representative Teodoro Casiño of Bayan Muna partylist called the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as “stubborn” for their rejection to impose a moratorium on mining, following the death of eight miners in Pantukan, Compostela Valley caused by a landslide.
“The DENR, in rejecting the call for a mining moratorium through Leo Jasareno, director of Region XI of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau [MGB] and putting the blame on illegal small-scale mining shows the myopic and short-term outlook of the agency with regard to the mining industry,” Casiño said in a statement.
Earlier, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo asked the MGB to place a moratorium on mining activities until an efficient monitoring and control system is in place.
But Jasareno said that to issue a moratorium is a lopsided move since the landslide that triggered on Good Friday was caused by illegal small-scale miners.
It would hurt the whole industry if a moratorium will cap the mining activities as an answer to the recent landslide in Mindanao, Jasereno claimed.
In Pantukan alone, small-scale miners number as many as 300,000.
Senator Loren Legarda filed a resolution seeking to investigate landslides in Pantukan, Compostela Valley that claimed 13 lives and injured several residents.
Legarda’s Senate Resolution 444 asks the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to explain why they allow residents to stay despite they have declared the place as dangerous.
She urged the Senate committee on Environment and Natural Resources to lead the inquiry aiming to protect small-scale miners and make their place of work and place safe.
WITH REPORT FROM XINHUA