Philippine Landslide Kills 15 09/20 06:39
NAGA, Philippines (AP) -- A massive landslide buried dozens of homes near a
central Philippine mountain Thursday, killing at least 15 people and sending
rescuers scrambling to find survivors after some sent text messages pleading
The slide surged down on about 30 houses in two rural villages after
daybreak in Naga city in Cebu province, Roderick Gonzales, the city police
chief, told The Associated Press by telephone as he helped supervise the search
and rescue. Seven injured villagers were rescued from the huge mound of earth
Some victims still managed to send text messages after the landslide hit,
Gonzales said, adding elderly women and a child were among the dead.
Naga city Mayor Kristine Vanessa Chiong said by telephone that at least 64
people remained missing.
"We're really hoping we can still recover them alive," she said.
The landslide hit while several northern Philippine provinces were still
dealing with deaths and widespread damage wrought by Typhoon Mangkhut, which
pummeled the agricultural region Saturday and left at least 88 people dead and
more than 60 missing. A massive search was still underway for dozens of people
feared dead after landslides in the gold-mining town of Itogon in the north.
Cebu province was not directly hit by Mangkhut but the massive typhoon
helped intensify monsoon rains across a large part of the archipelago,
including the central region, where Naga city lies about 570 kilometers (353
miles) southeast of Manila.
Rescuers there were treading carefully in small groups on the unstable
ground to avoid further casualties.
"We're running out of time. The ground in the area is still vibrating. We're
striking a balance between intensifying our rescue efforts and ensuring the
safety of our rescuers," Naga city Councilor Carmelino Cruz said by phone.
Cristita Villarba, a 53-year-old resident, told AP by phone that her husband
and son were preparing to leave for work when the ground shook and they were
overwhelmed by a roar.
"It was like an earthquake and there was this thundering, loud banging
sound. All of us ran out," Villarba said, adding she, her husband and three
children were shocked but unhurt.
Outside, she saw the house of her elderly brother, Lauro, and his family was
buried in the landslide.
"Many of our neighbors were crying and screaming for help. Some wanted to
help those who got hit but there was too much earth covering the houses,
including my brother's," she said.
More than a dozen people live in her brother's home, mostly his family and
grandchildren, she said, adding that many small houses in her community got hit.
A few days ago, Villarba said she felt sorry for the landslide victims in
the country's north.
"I had no idea we will be the next," she said.
It's not clear what set off the landslide, but some residents blamed
limestone quarries, which they suspect may have damaged and caused cracks in
the mountainside facing their villages. Villarba said a light rain stopped when
the landslide hit and there was no rain on Wednesday.
The quarry nearest the landslide-hit villages was abandoned about a year
ago, but a company still runs a government-authorized quarry not far away and
villagers also profit from the limestone business, Angeline Templo, an
assistant to the mayor, said by phone.
More than 300 villagers were evacuated for safety as search and rescue work
continued, Templo said.
Naga is a coastal city with a population of more than 100,000.