MANILA: The death toll from a landslide in the central Philippines has risen to 29, police said Friday, as rescuers frantically dug for survivors of the latest tragedy in the storm-hit nation.
Dozens were still missing as authorities probed whether a nearby rock quarry could have played a role in the massive hillside collapse Thursday that hit rural communities in Naga on the tourist island of Cebu.
The rescue effort came as the nation was still reeling from Typhoon Mangkhut, whose toll hit 95 dead on Thursday, mostly from a massive landslide in the country’s mountainous north.
Rescuers on Cebu have pulled 29 corpses from the debris, the Philippine National Police said, as people living in homes spared from the landslide were evacuated as a precaution.
Hundreds of police, firemen, and specialists using heavy equipment were looking for about 50 people, provincial disaster office spokesman Julius Regner told AFP.
Authorities are not sure whether the limestone quarry near the slide-hit area contributed to the disaster, but they have ordered a temporary 15-day halt to quarry operations around the country as a precaution.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu told a press conference the government will conduct a national review “to determine the safety of quarry operation areas, most especially the surrounding communities.”
The Philippines has a poor record of regulating mining, with tunnel collapses and landslides regularly killing people in other areas in recent years.
Cebu was not directly hit by Mangkhut, the world’s strongest typhoon this year, but has been pounded by heavy monsoon rain for days, making the slopes dangerously loose.
The efforts in Cebu came as searchers in the Philippines’ north continued to work to recover the corpses of a suspected dozens of people buried in a landslide unleashed Saturday by Typhoon Mangkhut.
However, rescue work in the mining community of Itogon was slowed on Thursday when most of the crews were evacuated over concerns that the surrounding hillsides could also collapse.
Small-scale miners and their families were buried after their homes were hit by one of the dozens of landslides unleashed as the storm hit the Cordillera mountain range.
Most of the 95 people killed by Mangkhut died in landslides in the gold-mining region that includes Itogon.
Mangkhut also dumped torrential rains on the key agricultural areas of the Philippines’ main northern island of Luzon, causing crop losses that will likely total more than $250 million. —AFP