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Still no sign of 5 missing mine workers in Semirara.

Byline: Nestor P. Burgos Jr.

FAMILIES of the buried workers of Semirara Mining Corp., company officials and workers attend a Mass near the collapsed portion of the wall of the Pantian open mine pit. RAFFY LERMA

SEMIRARA ISLAND, Antique-Except for a recovered human body part, there were no signs of the five workers who were among 10 people buried by tons of soil when a portion of a wall of the Semirara Mining Corp. (SMC) open mine pit collapsed here five days ago.

The bodies of five heavy equipment operators were recovered last week. Company personnel, who were pumping out water from a section of the floor of the Panian pit, found the human body part on Monday morning. Some of the remains of five other workers were earlier found in the area.

An SMC doctor who examined the decomposing body part said it could be an extremity (hand or foot). He refused to disclose other details for lack of authority.

Continued slides and heavy rains on Monday hampered search and retrieval operations conducted by SMC personnel and a K-9 sniff dog team of the Army's 301st Brigade. Jocelyn Gomez, mother of one of the missing workers, appealed to her son's fellow workers to continue the search. "Please help us find him so we can bury him and he will be in peace," she told the Inquirer. The second of six siblings, Junjie was the breadwinner of the family and was sending three of his siblings to school.

"They have to stop going to school if we don't get help," she said. A team from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) conducted psychological stress debriefing sessions with the families of the five fatalities and five missing.

"They need assurance that their family, especially their children, will be taken care of and they will be provided with livelihood, housing and education for their children," said Luna Moscoso, DSWD team leader.

The department will provide P10,000 in financial assistance to each of the families of the fatalities and P5,000 for each survivor. The assistance will also be given to those with missing family members, Moscoso said.

Vice Mayor Diosdado Egina of Caluya town, where Semirara is located, said the local government would grant a total of P260,000 in aid to the survivors and the families of the victims.

Victor Consunji, SMC president and chief operating officer, earlier met with the victims' families and assured them of financial support, as well as livelihood and education assistance for their children.

SMC, owned by David M. Consunji Inc. (DMCI), has been operating one of the biggest coal mines in Asia on the 5,500-hectare Semirara Island since 1999 after it took over the then government-owned Semirara Coal Corp.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Feb 18, 2013
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