Naga City, Cebu landslide death toll climbs to 29; rescue operations suspended for the night

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Photo courtesy: Naga City LGU

City of Naga, Cebu (CNN Philippines, September 21) — The death toll in the landslide in the City of Naga in Cebu Province rose to 29 on Friday, authorities said.

Disaster response officials said the dead include residents of two villages whose houses were buried in the rubble and two workers of nearby Apo Land and Quarry Corp.

Search and rescue teams resumed their operations early Friday morning to look for over 50 people believed still trapped under the loosened soil, boulders and debris. But they have to wait until Saturday to be rescued, as search and rescue operations were temporarily halted at 5 p.m. due to intermittent rain. Only one of the three sections of the 70-hectare landslide site will have an overnight operation.

Eight have been rescued so far.

Authorities said heavy rains caused the landslide that buried around 60 houses in the villages of Tinaan and Naalad. Naga City Mayor Kristine Chiong on Thursday ordered forced evacuation of all residents in Sitio Sindulan. 758 families are staying in seven evacuation centers.

The landslide covers around 70 hectares of land -- about the size of ten football fields. Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) officials said the residents could be buried under 15-meters of rubble or the depth of a five-story building. Chiong said they will declare the landslide site as a no-build zone.

Authorities are also looking at the mining activities nearby.

There is a nearby quarrying site allegedly owned by a cement-manufacturing company. Authorities have already ordered the suspension of their mining operations.

MGB Environment Division Chief Armando Malicse confirmed the area has limestone rocks, while cracks and fissures are common. He added the area has long been identified as landslide-prone.

Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte said he will pay for the burial of those who died due to the landslide.  He made the statement during a visit to Cebu on Friday afternoon to conduct an aerial survey of the landslide site.