PANTUKAN, Compostela Valley (MindaNews/07 January) – The exact number of persons who were possibly buried in the landslide in Barangay Napnapan early morning on Thursday has remained unknown, as residents and officials have given conflicting figures and accounts surrounding the incident.
Hours after the landslide at the gold rush site in Sitio Diat 1 in Barangay Napnapan, the local disaster council reported that only eight persons were missing.
The figure dropped to five by Friday morning with the recovery of more bodies which relatives said were among those who were missing.
By late Friday afternoon, the number swelled to 45 after relatives submitted the names of the residents living in Sitio Diat 1, Dr. Arnulfo Lantaya, spokesperson of the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said.
Lantaya explained that on the first two days after the landslide, the relatives of either killed or missing victims had not yet come out.
“All of these 45 missing are those living in the landslide site but we don’t know yet if there are those who are not actually from the sitio but happened to be there at the time of the incident,” he said.
However, when MindaNews verified the figure with the residents around the landslide site, some of them claimed about a hundred could have been buried alive.
On Thursday, reporters asked Lantaya if he could give an estimate of the population in the landslide site. But he refused to cite figures, saying there were transients in the area who could be working in the gold rush site.
Ely Sanchez, chair of Diat Small Scale Miners Cooperative, said at least 40 persons remained buried in the landslide.
He added he is not sure if there were some people who visited their friends and relatives when the landslide happened.
Rumors circulating in the landslide site said that three dump trucks fully loaded with miners and residents arrived at the Hexat Mining Corporation compound on January 3.
The landslide hit the compound, destroying most of the miners’ bunk houses.
Lantaya, however, would not confirm the rumors saying that while dump trucks may have arrived at the Hexat compound it does not necessarily mean they were loaded with people.
“The dump trucks are in and out of the compound because they are using it in transporting ores (to Tagum where the ball mills are located),” he said.
But Sanchez claimed that the dump trucks were usually loaded with miners and local residents, who would normally hitch a ride in going to the gold rush sites.
He said the miners were supposed to resume operations by January 10.
On Friday, Diat 1 sitio leader Cocoy Banuelo told Mindanews that an estimated 50 houses were destroyed by the landslide.
Banuelo claimed that around a hundred persons were possibly still buried in the landslide. (Keith Bacongco/MindaNews)