Rescuers dig out 24 dead in Philippine mudslides | world | Hindustan Times
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Rescuers dig out 24 dead in Philippine mudslides

world Updated: May 20, 2009 10:27 IST

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Gold miners used their hands to dig out the bodies of 24 colleagues buried under a pile of mud and rocks after landslides tumbled down a rain-soaked mountain in the southern Philippines, a provincial governor said Wednesday.

About 50 miners took shelter from pounding rain in five bunkhouses when the mudslides swept away the shanties in the remote village of Napnapan on Monday, said Gov. Arthur Uy of Compostela Valley province.

"It was so sudden. They heard the earth entomb their temporary work shelters," Uy told The Associated Press by telephone, quoting survivors.

He said some managed to run to safety "but others never made it and were buried by the mud and wood."

Most of the dead were pinned and crushed by rocks and suffocated under 3 feet (a meter) of mud, said rescuer Albert Dayao.

The village, which normally has no police presence, is about 64 miles (40 kilometers) from the nearest town of Pantukan.

A 50-member police and military rescue team used a back hoe and other heavy equipment to clear the only road leading to it, police Inspector Werenfredo Regidor said.

TV footage showed residents and rescuers wading in mud and digging with their hands to retrieve the victims' remains, which were wrapped in plastic sheets and carried down the steep slippery mountainside on stretchers.

About 20 people were treated for injuries and two are missing, Uy said.

The landslide-prone area was saturated after days of rain and residents had ignored warnings to leave, he said. "We have been asking them to leave, and we are planning to cordon the area," Uy said. "We are happy to have this gold mining area here. But the dark side are the deaths that occur in these natural calamities."

The gold-rich area about 580 miles (930 kilometers) southeast of Manila has about 40,000 residents, mostly small-scale miners and their families eking out a living by digging in narrow, dangerous shafts where accidents are common.

Forecasters said additional rain over the southern Philippines could trigger more flooding and landslides.