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Quake halts landslide rescue

DILIGENT SEARCH. Teams from the Coast Guard District Southeastern Mindanao through the PCG Station Davao de Oro join other rescuers in searching for survivors of the landslide in Brgy. Masara, Maco town on Friday. PCG and AFP photos
Manila Standard
  • Death toll now at 35
  • 77 remain missing under rubble

A strong earthquake in Mindanao on Saturday halted a search for scores of people believed buried in a deadly landslide in Davao de Oro, forcing rescuers to vacate the area, officials said.

The massive landslide buried a bus terminal and 55 houses near an Apex Mining Co. gold mine on Tuesday night, killing 35 people, mostly miners, and leaving 32 injured, according to an updated official tally.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage from the magnitude 5.8 quake that shook the Mindanao region at 11:22 a.m., but rescuers were ordered to stop their search for at least 77 people believed buried under the rubble spread over 8.9 hectares in the remote gold-mining village of Masara.

“We ordered them (rescuers) to go up to a safer area,” Apex Mines official Ferdinand Doble told a news conference.

Drones were flown to check for signs of potential secondary landslides that could endanger the lives of the rescuers, he added.

The magnitude 5.8 tectonic earthquake rocked Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said in its bulletin.

Phivolcs traced the quake at a depth of focus of 30 kilometers. It was felt in varying degrees of intensity across Agusan del Norte and nearby provinces including Agusan del Sur, Bohol, Bukidnon, Camiguin, Cotabato, Davao de Oro, Davao del Sur, Misamis Oriental, Lanao del Sur, South Cotabato, and Surigao del Sur.

At 1:21 p.m. Saturday, the seismic agency also recorded a 5.2-magnitude tremor located about three kilometers southeast of Esperanza, Agusan del Sur at a depth of 45 kilometers.

Phivolcs science research assistant Dandy Camero said it was possible that the two earthquakes are related.

“Because this is part of the Philippine fault zone, the Esperanza segment exists there, so it’s possible (that these quakes are connected). This is what we are still monitoring,” Camero said in Filipino.

On Friday, rescuers found a three-year-old girl alive after nearly 60 hours under the rubble, but mostly they have only been finding bodies.

“We’re still hoping to save more people even after four days,” Davao de Oro provincial disaster chief Randy Loy told the news conference.

However, Loy said “we can’t really guarantee their chances of survival” after 48 hours, adding that 474 rescuers were deployed at the Masara landslide.

“There are these so-called ‘pockets’ within these rubbles that will allow them to breathe,” Loy added.

Military rescuers were set to employ specialized equipment, their commander, Brig. Gen. Ronnie Babac, told the news conference.

These include thermal scanners that can detect signs of life beneath the rubble as well as specialized “snake cameras,” also known as borescopes designed to peek into confined spaces.

Landslides are a frequent hazard across much of the archipelago nation due to the mountainous terrain, heavy rainfall, and widespread deforestation from mining, slash-and-burn farming and illegal logging.

Rain has pounded parts of Mindanao on and off for weeks, triggering dozens of landslides and flooding that have forced tens of thousands of people into emergency shelters.

Massive earthquakes have also destabilized the region in recent months. With AFP

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