THE Toledo City Government in southwestern Cebu has evacuated 400 families, composed of 2,000 individuals, living near the collapsed portion of an open mining pit owned by Carmen Copper Corp.
John Roseller Layan, Toledo City public information officer, said the evacuation of the families living in Barangay Biga began on Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020.
Layan said the residents living within the danger zone were transferred to a multipurpose court in Biga’s sitio of Hag-it, which has been declared safe for habitation.
A landslide occurred in the afternoon of Dec. 21, killing miners Junil Lagola, Ernesto Caspe, Juan Tapang and Dionisio Labang.
Six miners remain missing, and the search for them continues.
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 has suspended Carmen Copper’s mining operations.
As the multipurpose court cannot accommodate all the evacuees at the same time, the Toledo City Government organized two camps in the same area so the minimum health and safety protocols are met, including the observance of social distancing.
Mayor Marjorie Perales also plans to acquire additional tents for the evacuees, Layan said.
It took four days before the city government could initiate the evacuation as Perales wanted to ensure that all logistics at the transfer site were complete.
The mayor had also sought additional logistics from the Department of Social Welfare and Development 7 before she pushed for the evacuation, Layan said.
Layan said one challenge they had encountered in evacuating the residents was that some resisted the efforts of the City to relocate them to safer ground.
“Even though we cannot give them the similar convenience of staying in their houses, we have to make them understand that this is for their own safety,” Layan said in Cebuano.
In a related development, Layan said search and retrieval efforts at the collapsed Carmen Pit continue. Emergency responders have started using sonar devices and dogs trained in rescue operations to help in finding the missing miners.
Despite the bad weather caused by two low pressure areas that entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility, the search and retrieval operations for the six missing persons continued.
As of 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 28, Layan said the emergency responders had started excavating a part of the collapsed site where K9 dogs had been able to sniff a scent of a decomposing body.
The Coast Guard personnel and other rescuers have been also working overtime to find the missing persons.
“Recent indications and developments include that there was already a stench in the area. That’s why K9 units have been deployed onsite,” Layan said.
Emergency rescuers are in the process of retrieving the bodies of Jose Carpentero, Jonwel Herediano, Simeon Laconas, John Paul Resuelo, Renante Sepada and Alfred Tautho.
Layan said they are monitoring the weather as well since the safety of the rescuers is a must.
“We are hoping that the weather will not get worse. But we can assure the public that we will not also gamble the lives of our rescuers,” he said.
Layan said rescuers have continued the operations without stopping since Christmas Day. They are also aided by the sonar devices from Carmen Copper Corp. to detect any movement underground.
“Even though we are already in search and retrieval, our mayor is still hoping that some survived because it’s not easy to lose a loved one, especially since the New Year is just a few days away,” Layan said. (JOB, ANV / JKV)