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No More Survivors Expected To Be Found After Mine Disaster

August 31, 1994 GMT

MALANGAS, Philippines (AP) _ Julie Jolvido sobbed as she awaited word today on whether her husband survived a coal mine explosion that killed at least 64 people. But officials doubt any other survivors will be found.

Ninety-six miners survived the Monday night explosion, according to the Philippine National Oil Co., which operates the mine 500 miles south of Manila.

Sixty-four bodies had been recovered as of Wednesday. Officials estimated between 10 and 20 others may still be entombed in the shaft. It was the Philippines’ worst mine disaster.

″I want him to be alive,″ sobbed Mrs. Jolvido, 26, as she waited along with her three sons at the compound gate. She and her husband Richard, 32, had been married for eight years.

But provincial health officer Dr. Rolando Olmoguez held out little hope. ″We cannot hope there are still people alive inside (the shaft),″ he said.

Operations manager Rudolfo Almonte said it could take two weeks to recover all the bodies. ″We are cautious because one wrong move and another explosion might occur,″ he said.

Two days after the blast, there was confusion about virtually every aspect of the disaster. On Tuesday, Isidoro Real Jr., governor of Zamboanga del Sur province, said 79 bodies had been recovered. But officials here said 64 bodies had been removed by this afternoon.

Some survivors blamed the explosion on methane, but others said it was caused by dynamite. The company denies using dynamite.

Some miners, speaking on condition of anonymity, claimed devices for detecting methane often fail. An explosion at the mine last March injured 11 people.

Survivors told gripping stories of stumbling in the dark over the dead and injured as they scrambled for safety.

″There were screams,″ said miner Romeo Arapan. ″I dropped on the floor. After a few minutes, I looked to see if the fire was out. Then I shouted for everyone to get out. We ran out stepping on what felt like bodies. It was pitch dark. One grabbed the foot of my friend and called for help. I thank God I am alive.″

Romy Nealega, 45, a miner for 10 years, said he fainted from the fumes inside the tunnel but managed to revive after a rush of fresh air.

″A strong gust of wind, smoke and dust swept over us,″ he said. ″I heard a worker scream for us to run. It was dark inside but I managed to find my lamp and the beam showed four bodies sprawled on the floor. I got dizzy and asked colleagues to leave me behind. I passed out. But when I whiffed some fresh air, I crawled until I was rescued.″

The disaster overwhelmed the resources of this small community of 32,000. The town’s single funeral parlor appealed to other communities for caskets. About 85 percent of the dead came from Malangas and the rest from three nearby communities.