Philippines rescuers dig for Mangkhut survivors with bare hands

Rescue teams in the northern Philippines are desperately sifting through the debris of a large landslide caused by Typhoon Mangkhut, despite fears that there are no more survivors among the 40 to 50 people still thought to be buried. 

Rescuers on Tuesday used their bare hands and shovels to excavate the site in Itogon, Benguet province, where part of a mountain slope collapsed on miners’ barracks in which dozens of people had taken shelter from the world’s worst storm of the year. 

Mangkhut’s death toll in the Philippines rose to 74 on Tuesday, three days after the storm battered northern Luzon island. Police said a further 55 people were still missing and 74 were injured. 

All but three of the missing are in the Cordillera Administrative Region, which saw a number of landslides, Philippine news site Rappler reported. 

Typhoon Mangkhut, locally called Ompong, ripped through the northern Philippines on Saturday, destroying homes and farmlands on Luzon. 

The next day, the storm made landfall in southern China, killing four in Guangdong province and leaving a trail of destruction in Hong Kong and Macau.

Chances of survivors slim

On Monday, Itogon’s mayor said there was a “99 percent” chance that those still buried under the landslide were dead. 

“While I said there is a 99 percent chance that all of them are dead, there is still that one percent chance,” Victorio Palangdan later told AFP news agency.

“The rescue effort will continue until the president orders us to stop,” he said.

Officials on Monday said they had recovered more than 40 bodies from the site. 

Philippine Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Monday ordered the suspension of small-scale mining operations in the region, and President Rodrigo Duterte said that if it were up to him he would end mining practices across the country.

But Al Jazeera’s Jamela Alindogan, reporting from Itogon, said that shutting down the industry would be “easier said than done”. 

“We’re talking about at least three million people dependent on this for their livelihoods,” she said. 

“These people know that they have been living on precarious ground, they’ve been working in very dangerous places but they do not have any choice.” 

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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