Mayor: '99%' Chance Landslide Victims Are Dead

But mayor vows to keep digging
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 17, 2018 9:05 AM CDT
Hope Fading, Philippines Keeps Digging
Bodies recovered at the site Monday where victims are believed to have been buried by a landslide after Typhoon Mangkhut lashed Itogon, Benguet province, in the Philippines.   (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

A Philippine mayor said Monday that it's unlikely any of the dozens of people feared buried in a huge landslide set off by Typhoon Mangkhut will be found alive, though rescuers are still digging through the massive mound of mud and debris covering a chapel where they'd taken shelter. Mayor Victorio Palangdan of Itogon town in the province of Benguet, among the worst-hit by the typhoon Saturday, said there's a "99%" chance that the 40 to 50 poor miners and their families are dead. Mangkhut killed 65 people in the Philippines. Palangdan said rescuers have dug out 11 bodies from the landslide, which covered a former miners' bunkhouse that had been turned into a chapel. Dozens sought shelter there during the storm despite warnings it was dangerous. "They laughed at our policemen. They insisted," he said. "They were resisting when our police tried to pull them away. What can we do?"

Hundreds of rescuers armed with shovels and picks searched for the missing in the muddy avalanche along a mountainside as grief-stricken relatives waited nearby, many quietly praying. Bodies in black bags were laid side by side, reports the AP. Those identified were carried away by relatives. Jonalyn Felipe said she told her husband, Dennis, a small-scale gold miner in Itogon, by cellphone to return to their home in northern Quirino province on Friday as the powerful typhoon blew threateningly close. "I was insisting because the storm was strong, but he told me not to worry because [they were] safe there," said Felipe, who wept while awaiting word. Philippine officials say that gold mines tunneled by big mining companies and by unauthorized small miners have made the hillsides unstable and prone to landslides.

(Read more Typhoon Mangkhut stories.)

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