MAC: Mines and Communities

Rescue Operation In Collapsed Tunnel Continues

Published by MAC on 2005-10-29

Rescue operation in collapsed tunnel continues

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Philippine Sun Star

CIVILIAN and military rescuers Friday rushed to search for any survivors inside a collapsed mine tunnel in Mt. Diwalwal, a known gold-rush area in Monkayo town in Compostela Valley in the southern Philippines.

At least six bodies have been recovered and as many as 50 others are believed trapped inside the tunnel. Ten miners were also rescued, presidential aide Jesus Dureza said.

"We recovered six bodies and rescued 10 injured miners and efforts are ongoing to find the other victims," Dureza said.

The tunnel is operated by JB Mining Corporation, he said.

Civil defense officials said rescuers were trying to locate dead bodies inside the tunnel that collapsed late Wednesday following a huge explosion in Mt. Diwalwal.

"Rescuers are having a difficult time in locating the bodies or any survivors. The stench is terrible, aside from the dangerous holes and shafts inside the tunnel," regional civil defense official Atilano Adi said Friday.

Adi said soldiers and policemen were also helping in the Mt. Diwalwal operation.

He said official reports put the number of casualties at 6, and at least 11 others are trapped in the tunnel.

But Diwalwal village chieftain Franco Tito said as many as 50 miners were believed trapped inside the tunnel.

"We have reports saying that as many as 50 people still trapped down there and they could all be dead by now," he said.

He said heavy rains were making it difficult for rescuers and volunteers to dig for bodies or find survivors. "There was an explosion inside the cave and the tunnel gave in, trapping everybody," Tito said.

Dureza, who is supervising the rescue operations, said they would continue to search for survivors until all miners have been accounted for.

"This rescue operation will not stop until everybody has been recovered and accounted for," he said.

Environment officials said that an estimated $1.8 billion worth of gold reserves remain untapped in the 5,000-hectare Mt. Diwalwal.

Adi said they are also monitoring another mountain gold-rush area in the town of Tungawan, where hundreds of villagers have dug tunnels, and a huge coal mine operation in Malangas town in Zamboanga del Sur province.

In Tungawan town, Adi said, villagers have virtually turned the mountain into a pit -- with tunnels snaking into each other -- searching for gold nuggets.

"They are like rats, literally searching for gold nuggets for food. And we are concerned about the danger these unsafe and illegal tunnels pose to everyone," Adi said.

He said safety is also their in the coal mining operation in the province.

Last year, six miners were killed when a coal tunnel collapsed in Diplahan town in Zamboanga del Sur.

But the worst tragedy was in 1995, when a huge methane gas explosion ripped through a coal mine tunnel in Malangas town, killing more than 100 people.

The blast set off a fireball, which swept through nine kilometers of mines, and setting off other explosives which had been stockpiled inside the tunnel.

Miners earn a little over 100 to 200 pesos a day - under half the estimated daily cost of living. Mining unions often claim that competition from casual contract workers has significantly decreased health and safety.

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