PARACALE, Camarines Norte—There is a mining disaster in this town but authorities cannot yet determine its magnitude because no miner wants to speak.
On Wednesday night, the Camarines Norte police confirmed the death of at least three small-scale miners.
But the local government on Thursday expressed fear that the number of casualties could be higher as at least seven mining pits had been flooded by seawater after a blasting accident on Wednesday.
The accident happened in a seaside village of Palanas, just 2 kilometers from the town proper, where at least 100 mining pits are located. Some exceed depths of 20 meters.
Senen Inocalla, administrative officer and aide of Paracale Mayor Romeo Moreno, said officials received a report that a dynamite blast in one of the pits in Palanas on Tuesday punctured at least seven pits and brought seawater rushing into them.
Senen said no body has yet been found, however. She said the mayor kept watch during retrieval operations on Wednesday. They continued until yesterday.
According to Senen, miners themselves were conducting the retrieval operations. Miners who dived into the pits in search of bodies said pieces of debris, including ores in sacks and pieces of wood, were blocking the entrances to the pits, making the search more difficult.
Senen said the municipal government sought help from the regional civil defense office of Bicol. Expert divers are needed, she said.
“No miner here would speak,” said Senen. She said officials are not discounting the possibility that there could be more casualties.
One of the mining pits was already stinking on Thursday afternoon and flies were all over the place.
As of yesterday, many of the pits are still under water. Senen said the municipal government had recommended the dismantling of the mining pits.
Camarines Norte Gov. Edgardo Tallado in a previous interview said that while he discouraged unlicensed small-scale mining in Paracale, there was virtually nothing he could do about it.