MANILA, Sept 21 (Reuters) – The Philippines on Friday temporarily suspended all quarrying operations in seven regions following a landslide near a limestone quarry that killed at least 29 people, with dozens more feared trapped under the rubble.
As search, rescue and retrieval operations continued at the landslide site in Naga City on the central island of Cebu, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu announced the 15-day suspension pending safety assessments at other quarrying areas.
The landslide, one of several incidents from Sept. 15 to 20 in the country, was triggered by heavy rains early morning on Thursday, burying around two dozen houses and the people inside.
Authorities put the death toll at 29 as of Friday, with rescuers still digging for possibly more than 50 people believed to have been buried alive.
“It could also happen in other quarries all over the country,” Cimatu said during a media briefing in Naga City. “I ordered the review and assessment of all quarry operations all over the country to determine the safety of the quarry operations.”
He ordered the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB), the state regulator for mining and quarrying industries, to conduct the safety assessments specifically in seven regions where large quarry operations are located.
MGB Director Wilfredo Moncano told Reuters he expects the impact of the suspension on the industry’s output to be “minimal”, without giving any estimate.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte repeated his call on Monday to shut all mines in the country following deadly landslides triggered by heavy rains caused by Typhoon Mangkhut, which struck the country on Sept 15.
Cimatu also ordered a halt to all small-scale mining in the mountainous, gold-rich Cordillera region, where most of the landslides occurred, and ordered a review of more than 100 proposals for small-scale mining sites across the country.
(By Enrico de la Cruz; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)
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