MANILA – The death toll due to the powerful typhoon Mangkhut climbed to 74 in the Philippines on Tuesday as rescue teams continued to search for dozens of people buried in an abandoned mine due to landslides.
According to the latest figures provided by the National Police, 55 people were missing and 74 injured due to the strongest typhoon of the season, which lashed parts of Luzon island on the northernmost tip of the Philippines on Saturday.
The highest number of casualties was reported from the mining town of Itogon in Benguet province, where massive floods and landslides caused by Mangkhut buried a gold mine and four barracks where some miners and their families had been living illegally.
While rescue work was in progress, 39 deaths have been reported from the incident, while Itogon mayor Victorio Palangdan told media that around 65 people were still missing, buried at a depth of around 300 meters (984 feet).
According to the mayor, authorities tried to evacuate these families before the typhoon arrived but they had refused, believing that they were safe there.
The goldmine had been closed since 2009 after an accident, although the miners, rendered jobless, had been exploiting it in an irregular manner.
As a result of the incident, the department of environment on Monday announced a ban on small-scale illegal mining activities in the entire Cordillera region, where Itogon is situated.
President Rodrigo Duterte visited families of the victims in Itogon on Monday and handed over a check for 45,000 pesos ($832) to each of them, apart from providing material for basic necessities and aid for the last rites of the victims worth 25,000 pesos.
Three days after the passage of the devastating Mangkhut, locally known as Ompong, more than 20,000 people remained displaced from their homes while an estimated 590,000 people have been affected by the storm.
Currently the four worst-hit provinces Abra, Benguet, Cagayan and Ilocos Norte have been declared to be in a state of calamity due to the scale of the damage caused by the typhoon.
Mangkhut made landfall in Baggao, on the northeastern tip of the country in the early hours of Saturday, with wind gusts of up to 305 kph (190 mph), torrential rains, floods and waves of up to six meters, although it weakened during its passage towards the west, leaving the country in the evening with winds of 120-170 kph.