3 miners killed in tunnel cave-in in S. Cotabato

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/31 March) – Three small-scale mining workers were killed while two others were injured when mine tunnels collapsed early Wednesday at a gold rush site in T’boli town in South Cotabato, officials confirmed Thursday.

Nelida Pereira, action officer of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC) of South Cotabato, said the victims were reportedly working inside the mine tunnels at the gold mining area in Barangay Kematu in T’boli town when a portion of the tunnels caved in at the height of the heavy rains in the area.

She said the incident happened following the reported rain-triggered landslides and flashfloods along the Sapali and Kematu rivers.

Pereira said the three fatalities, whose identities were still being verified by PDRRMC personnel as of Thursday morning, were retrieved amid fallen debris inside the collapsed tunnels.

The two injured workers are currently being treated at the T’boli Evangelical Hospital in Barangay Edwards, T’boli, she said.

Pereira said they immediately dispatched their disaster team to the area Wednesday but it failed to reach the accident site because of the landslides.

She said a team from the Office of Civil Defense and the T’boli Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council attempted to penetrate the area Wednesday night but eventually withdrew due to the critical situation.

“As of now the affected area is still considered critical due to the possible occurrence of more landslides,” she said in a radio interview.

Owing to this, Pereira said South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy Jr. initially ordered the forced evacuation of residents and mining workers from the affected areas in Barangay Kematu to avert possible tragedies.

She said the governor is also looking at the possibility of temporarily closing down the affected mine tunnels.

Citing reports from village officials, she said the collapsed mine tunnels were located near the bunkhouses of the mining workers. Meantime, Pereira said at least five farm animals were reported to have been washed away by the flashfloods along the Sapali River.

She said the approaches of a bridge in Barangay Sinolon were severely damaged due to the swelling of the river’s waters.

Pereira added that several villages in Surallah and Banga towns were also hit by several flashfloods as a result of the heavy rains in the area. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)