MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 3 – 9:45 a.m.) At least 25 persons have been confirmed dead and at least a hundred more are missing after a landslide hit a community of small-scale miners in Compostela Valley province before dawn Thursday.

Undersecretary Benito Ramos, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said in a phone interview that the landslide struck Sitios Diat Uno and Diat Dos in Barangay Napnapan, Pantukan town around 4:30 a.m. and “wiped out” much of the mostly-shanty community.

Ramos quoted police reports as saying up to 100 persons remain missing as of this posting. Local police and troops of the Army’s 71st Infantry Battalion, backed by two helicopters from Cagayan de Oro City, are conducting search and rescue operations.

News5 said up to 150 persons may be missing.

Chief Superintendent Jaime Morente, police director for Region 11, said the death toll had risen to 25 from the initial 16 reported early Thursday morning. He said 15 more persons were injured.

Residents are being evacuated.

Morente said the landslide area was hard to reach on foot, which was hampering rescue efforts. He also said reports from the field were coming in trickles because of intermittent telecommunications signals in the area.

Ramos said the landslide was triggered by heavy rains and a Magnitude-3 earthquake that shook Davao Oriental just past midnight Thursday.

05-Jan-12, 8:31 AM | Abigail Kwok,| News5


News5 reported that the Department of Natural Resources had earlier identified the area as landslide-prone and not fit for habitation.

In fact, a landslide had struck there April last year.

Morente, who was assigned to Region 11 around that time, acknowledged that there was an agreement with local government units to evacuate people in identified risk areas but that there had been difficulty in carrying it out.

“It is the call of local officials in the area to evacuate the residents living in landslide-prone areas, but that is being considered. It doesn’t need a forced evacuation but only voluntary evacuation,” Morente said.