Miner’s body found; ‘Ineng’ death toll now 22
LA TRINIDAD, Benguet—The body of another miner was retrieved on Tuesday, the fifth day of search for survivors of a massive landslide that swept a small-scale mining camp in Mankayan town, this province.
The wife and relatives of Nardo Mocnangan identified his body at Abatan Emergency Hospital in Buguias town. It was seen in a river in nearby Cervantes town in Ilocos Sur on Tuesday and was taken to Mankayan early Wednesday.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, who flew to this capital town on Wednesday, were originally told that two bodies had been recovered during a damage evaluation meeting initiated by the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC). The error was traced to simple miscommunication.
So far, six miners have died from the landslide in Barangay Taneg in Mankayan. Four others were buried alive by landslides in other parts of the town after Typhoon “Ineng” (international name: Goni) dumped heavy rain and whipped strong wind in the Cordilleras last week.
Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan also reported the death of four miners in Itogon town due to gas poisoning on Aug. 23. He said the miners did not heed a provincial order stopping all extractive activities during the typhoon and entered their tunnels.
Counting Mocnangan and the Itogon miners, Ineng left 22 fatalities in the Cordillera as of Wednesday.
On Wednesday morning in Barangay Taneg, the families of the missing miners joined the community in staging an “atang” (offering).
“We beseech the spirits to bring out the victims, so they would be brought home to their families for proper burials,” said Pacita Betuagan Awisan, 87, a community elder.
As part of the ritual, the community butchered two black native pigs at the accident site, which they offered to the spirits.
Over 400 volunteers, policemen, miners and soldiers continued to dig through mud, rocks and toppled trees, looking for 10 other miners and their family members who took shelter in makeshift structures when a portion of an adjacent mountain toppled over their temporary camp.
Some rescuers tried to locate the mine tunnels on the belief that some of them might have escaped, but they failed.
Loose soil and strong rain continued to make rescue operations difficult.
“We came here to commiserate with you,” Roxas said during the PDRRMC meeting at the capitol. He said he was also delivering the sympathies of President Aquino.
Before proceeding to Santa, Ilocos Sur province, to inspect the typhoon damage there, Roxas instructed Chief Supt. Isagani Nerez, Cordillera police director, to send more policemen to the search areas and help speed up the rescue and retrieval operations in Mankayan.
He said the police would also send a K-9 unit to help search for bodies.
In the Ilocos region, National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) announced the return of electricity to areas hit by Ineng.
All transmission lines were operating under normal conditions as of Wednesday, NGCP said in a situation report. It said the system normalized at 8:42 a.m. on Wednesday when the San Esteban-Laoag 115-kilovolt transmission line was re-energized.
With the line restored, the Ilocos Sur Electric Cooperative Inc. and Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative Inc. may restore power in their respective franchise areas, the agency said.
The toppled tower in Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur, was the last facility to be restored, according to NGCP. It said this was the cause of the outage of the San Esteban-Laoag 115kV line.
(Vincent Cabreza and Richard Balonglong, Inquirer Northern Luzon, and Riza T. Olchondra in Manila)