Philippine rescuers used shovels and their bare hands to claw through mounds of rocky soil on Monday as they desperately looked for dozens of people feared buried beneath a landslide unleashed by Typhoon Mangkhut.
Searchers have already pulled 11 bodies from the vast debris field in Itogon, in the disaster-hit nation’s north. Up to 40 may still be buried, with little hope they have survived.
“We believe that those people there, maybe 99 percent, are already dead,” Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan told reporters.
He added later: “It will continue until they (searchers) surrender. There are relatives among the rescuers who are still hoping they will be able to find their kin alive.”
A massive hillside, weakened by the monster storm’s lashing rains, collapsed on the miners’ bunkhouse about a half-kilometre (third of a mile) below.
Mangkhut, the world’s most powerful storm this year, pounded the Philippines at the weekend with torrential rains and violent winds that snapped utility poles and sheared roofs off homes.
Authorities say dozens died in the storm, mostly buried in landslides in the mountainous regions in the north of Luzon, the Philippines’ largest island.
Hundreds of rescuers in rows formed a human chain to pass rocks, debris and tree trunks out of the search area in Itogon.
The massive landslide left a gaping gash in the otherwise green hillside that was studded with small homes topped with rusting metals roofs.
With damaged roads preventing the entry of heavy equipment, soldiers, police and miners also used shovels and channeled water from a nearby stream to loosen the earth.
It was excruciatingly slow work, as anguished relatives watched and waited for word on their missing loved ones.
Residents of the remote town, in the Cordillera range about 200 kilometers north of Manila, had sought refuge in the building to avoid the wrath of Mangkhut.
The two-storey structure was an old bunkhouse abandoned by a gold mining firm at an area that has since been settled by small-time miners, Palangdan said.
Recovered bodies were draped in fabric and lined up in a row at a makeshift tent on a nearby road above the bunkhouse.
Landslides and flooding elsewhere in the Philippines forced nearly 200,000 people to flee their homes, according to a police tally.
Weeks of heavy monsoon downpours had already left hillsides unstable in the region.
Crescencio Bacalso, the governor of Benguet, a province that includes Itogon, also cited a tragic case in Baguio, the region’s largest city, where small-scale miners were helping to find a woman whose house had been buried.
“Unfortunately, there was a second collapse and the responders themselves became victims of a landslide. Six of them managed to crawl out but two others are missing,” he added.
“It rained for a month here in Benguet just before (Mangkhut) arrived, so the ground was soggy, leading to erosion and landslides,” Bacalso said.
Philippines: Typhoon Mangkhut death toll jumps as landslide traps dozensThe number of people killed by Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines jumped to 49 on Sunday, police said, as more landslide victims were discovered. ... World News
Philippines warns of hazards ahead after powerful Typhoon Mangkhut exitsTwo women were killed Saturday in a landslide set off by Super Typhoon Mangkhut, Philippine police said, the first reported deaths in the massive ... World News
Super Typhoon ‘Mangkhut’ arrives in PhilippinesA fierce typhoon bringing winds of over 200 km per hour made landfall in the northern Philippines on Saturday, bringing powerful gusts, heavy rainfall ... World News
Philippines’ Duterte offers troops to Amman to fight ISISPhilippine President Rodrigo Duterte has offered to send troops to Jordan to help combat ISIS, after agreeing to deepen military cooperation with the ... Middle East