‘I had to live for my family’By Nestor P. Burgos Jr. |Inquirer Visayas
“I had to survive for my wife and baby,” he said, his voice shaking during an interview at his house in Semirara village on this Visayan island.
Cilmar, 29, is one of three survivors of a mining accident at the Panian open-pit mine of Semirara Mining Co. (SMC) that killed at least five miners Wednesday. Five more are missing and feared buried alive when parts of the mine’s western wall caved in.
“I did not know what was happening. I felt the radio fly from my hand and I was plunging fast as the lights went out,” he told the Inquirer.
After the landslide, he found himself buried in soil up to his waist.
“I was dizzy but I clawed at the dirt to free myself,” he said.
Rescuers continued to dig, searching for the missing five miners.
“It is painful for us. But we won’t stop until we find them. They are ours,” said Leto Macli-ing, SMC general foreman.
Five tracking dogs from the Philippine Army’s 301st Brigade based at Camp Hernandez in Dingle, Iloilo, were brought in Saturday afternoon to help find the workers.
Macli-ing said search teams would also use pumps to remove the water from the bottom of the pit where the some of the fatalities were recovered.
Search and rescue efforts have been stalled by continued slides along the collapsed wall of the 360-hectare Panian pit.
The cause of the accident, the worst since SMC started operating in 1999, has yet to be determined.
Energy Undersecretary Ramon Allan Oca, who was on the island to inspect the accident site and to meet with company officials, said initial reports showed the wall of the pit could have loosened due to accumulated water in surrounding areas.
He said an estimated 600,000 cubic meters of soil collapsed, burying 10 workers and seven pieces of heavy machinery.
Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla has formed a five-member team to investigate the incident. The team includes mining engineers and geologists.
Oca clarified that only the extraction operations of the mining firm were suspended.
“Other operations not related to the accident can continue,” he said.
Juniper Barroquillo, SMC administrative manager, said the company is committed to finding all the missing workers.
The estimated cost of the heavy equipment buried in the landslide was P500 million.
The company has pledged P30,000 in financial assistance to the families of the victims. They were also assured livelihood, education and employment assistance, said Noeli Lim, Semirara village chief.