Pantukan landslide death toll climbs to 13; 11 still missing

PANTUKAN, Compostela Valley (MindaNews/27 April) – Relatives and rescuers recovered on Tuesday five more bodies at the landslide site in Barangay Kingking here even if the local government has ordered a temporary suspension of the rescue and retrieval operations due to inclement weather, bringing to 13 the death toll of the Good Friday disaster.
However, one of the bodies was still buried deep in the dirt and rubble and the retrieval team decided to dig it up on Wednesday as it was already getting dark.
Aside from the fatalities, 11 other persons remain missing, four days after the landslide that swathed a gold mining site at Sitio Panganason-B in Barangay Kingking.

Arnulfo Lantaya, newly designated spokesperson of the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Council (MRRDC), said the rescue workers found two of the bodies when they were about to suspend the rescue and retrieval operations.

Mayor Celso Sarenas has ordered the temporary suspension of the rescue and retrieval operations due to bad weather.

Sarenas said it would be risky for the retrieval team to continue digging when it’s raining due to the fissures found just about above the landslide site.
1st Lt. Jojo Silva of the 71st Infantry Battalion told MindaNews that some of the miners’ relatives also spotted a protruding body part when they were picking up some debris at the landslide site at around 12 noon.

“I think they saw a hand that protruded and then they just started digging along with the other rescue workers,” Silva said in the vernacular, adding the buried miner was Vincent Balog, 21, of Barangay Mangigay, Kitaotao, Bukidnon.

Then they just continued digging when they were told by the relatives of Balog that he was with other miners on the eve of the landslide, he said.

At around 3pm, the rescue workers retrieved the body of Johnel Lapatiz, 20, and 30 minutes later those of Noe Caingcoy, 21, and Jericho Escoto, 38. All were buried close to each other, said Silva, whose troops are also assisting in the rescue and retrieval operations.

At around 4pm, the rescue workers were still seen digging at the landslide site but later stopped since it might take longer to retrieve the other unidentified miner.

“I think they’ve already seen the body or the head but it may take longer to retrieve the body and it’s already late so they decided to stop and continue the diggings tomorrow,” Silva said in an interview at their command post, which is about 300 meters above the retrieval site. (Keith Bacongco / MindaNews)