Sep 17, 2018

Rescuers, police, soldiers, and volunteers have been scrambling for hours through the massive pile of debris and mud in Itogon, Benguet after Typhoon Ompong heavily struck the far-flung town. They are looking for at least 40 people who remain missing after the typhoon triggered a fatal landslide that covered the makeshift shelters of dozens of residents.

As of writing, only nine bodies have been retrieved.

 


When the typhoon heavily struck the town, the miners and their families sought shelter in a makeshift chapel made from an old bunkhouse along a mountain slope. Itogon mayor Victorio Palangdan said the residents were warned numerous times but they resisted. “What can we do?”

The residents were sure they will be fine since no landslide have occurred in that area for decades. But the months-long rain and intense winds may have softened and eroded the land on the mountains that led to its fatal slide towards the residents. The makeshift house cannot even be distinguished anymore from the pile of debris.

Soil erosion has long been a threat to residents of Benguet. It is one of the reasons why the region is considered one of the most landslide-prone areas in the country.

The number of people killed by the typhoon climbed to 65 on Monday, with most of the fatalities coming from the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). Aside from the Itogon slide, four people were also buried in a landslide in nearby town Ucab and three in La Trinidad.

In a press briefing this morning, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu ordered small-scale mining operations in CAR to “cease and desist.” Following Typhoon Ompong’s onslaught, he stressed that the government must ensure to prohibit small-scale miners from living in landslide-prone areas identified by geohazard maps, which are issued by the Mines and Geoscience Bureau.

Header image courtesy of Inquirer

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TAGS: benguet landslide house makeshift ompong typhoon ompong