|Philippine rescuers claw through dirt in a search for survivors a day after a landslide|
buried workers in mining tunnels in a gold-rich area in Kingking village of Pantukan
town in Compostela province, southern Philippines on April 23, 2011.
But despite their efforts, officials in charge of the rescue warned that they were unlikely to find any more survivors, with at least 21 people still missing from Friday’s pre-dawn landslide.
"We are still continuing our search and rescue. But most likely if we don’t have any improvement tonight, by tomorrow, we will shift to (body) retrieval operations," said local military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Lyndon Paniza.
Officials said that so far, only three deaths have been confirmed and 13 people rescued. Paniza said earlier reports that 15 had been rescued were found to be a mis-count.
Officials in the Kingking mountain district where the landslide occurred have classified at least 21 people as missing but Paniza said other victims may also have been buried.
"We are relying on the names given by the district officials. We are hoping that there are no others who were not on that list," he told AFP.
It is difficult to pinpoint exact numbers for the missing because of the transient nature of mining work that draws people into the area.
The pre-dawn landslide covered numerous illegal, small-scale gold mines on the mountainside in Kingking, including mining tunnels, houses, stores and gold processing mills.
Such illegal mining operations, with inadequate safety measures, are common in the mineral-rich but poverty-stricken southern island of Mindanao.
The searchers, including soldiers, civil defence personnel and volunteers from other mines in the area, continued to dig, mostly using shovels and picks, hoping that some people may have survived in their mining tunnels.
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