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Philippines landslide toll jumps to 54 dead

MANILA (AFP) – The death toll from a massive Philippine landslide near a gold mine abruptly rose to 54 yesterday, local officials said.

Nineteen bodies were recovered from beneath the rubble in the southern mountain village of Masara yesterday, with 63 other miners and residents still missing, said the municipality of Maco, and provincial disaster official Randy Loy.

The previous death toll given stood at 35.

The landslide buried a bus terminal for employees of a gold mining firm and 55 nearby houses last Tuesday night, leaving 32 other people injured.

Rocks, mud and trees slid more than 700 metres down a steep mountainside near the Apex Mining Co concession, burying an 8.9-hectare section of the Masara community. A three-year-old girl was pulled alive from under the rubble on Friday, in what rescuers described as a “miracle”.

The authorities have vowed to continue the search until everyone listed as missing is recovered.

Landslides are a frequent hazard across much of the archipelago nation due to the mountainous terrain, heavy rainfall and widespread deforestation from mining, slash-and-burn farming and illegal logging.

Rain has pounded parts of the southern region on and off for weeks, triggering dozens of landslides and floods that have forced tens of thousands of people into emergency shelters.

Massive earthquakes have also destabilised the region in recent months.

Rescuers carry a body from the landslide-hit village of Masara in Maco, Davao de Oro province, southern Philippines. PHOTO: AP