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Workers buried alive in drainage project accident

Contractor liable
Naga City Mayor John Bongat
Naga City Mayor John Bongat

NAGA CITY (Oct 24, 2011) - A construction firm implementing a drainage project in this city could be facing charges of negligence after two of its workers died and two others were injured when an 8-meter deep excavation at a project site caved in and buried the victims.

The project's contractor, 4GM Construction firm based in Antipolo City, has not made a public statement on the tragedy. But sources from the city hall say the construction company has administrative and civil liabilities and the city government itself may file the appropriate charges.

Mayor John Bongat announced before the local media today the creation of a fact finding body to probe into the accident as the city government also ordered 4GM Construction to cease working at the project site. Mayor Bongat also castigated the contractor for failing to implement on-site safety measures to protect its workers. Rescinding the city's contract with 4GM is an open option depending on the result of the invistigation, the mayor said.

The mayor, however, has already directed the Bids and Awards Commitee to conduct a negotiated bidding to look for a new contractor who will finish the work at the site, which if left stagnant poses risks to pedestrian and motorists and could weaken the foundations of adjacent buildings and structures.

The huge excavation along Dimasalang and Peñafrancia Avenue is part of the project of the city government called Storm Drainage project designed to alleviate flooding during typhoons and heavy rains.

Witnesses said that past 3 PM on Friday (Oct. 21), a 6-meter wide portion of the excavation crumbled when a back hoe accidentally hit its side close to the foundation.

It took the emergency rescue teams from the City Public Safety Office and the Bicol Medical Center more than 1 hour to extricate the buried victims. The last vicitim was recovered only after 2 hours of careful digging.

The oldest victim, Casiano Purisima Sedeño, 60 years old, of barangay Lerma was declared dead on arrival at the Nilo Roa Foundation Hospital at 4:45 P.M last Friday - an hour after the accident.

Naga City Police Station 1 head, Police Supt. Vincent Marpuri, said that another construction worker, Domingo Balanlayos, 40 years old, of Concepcion Pequeña, who incurred severe chest injusry died before noon the following day (October 22) at the St. John Hospital.

Two other workers, Arnel Natividad and Nestor Olive both from Tinambac Camarines Sur suffered non-fatal injuries.

Mayor Bongat has directed city engineer Chito Palmiano to complete his incident report on or before this coming Friday.

A separate report shall also be submitted by a special fact finding body headed by Councilor Jose Tuazon, chariman of Infrastructure Committee of the Sangguniang Panlungsod. The City Legal Counsel is a member of this body as well as representatves of an independent group of engineers form the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (PICE) and the Naga People’s Council.

Reports indicate that 4GM Construction representatives have become invisible after the tragedy.

Naga Vice Mayor Gabriel Bordado, said,there seems to be a confusion on who is representing 4GM Construction. A certain Engineer Sarmiento designated on paper as the project engineer of the construction firm has made no appearance before the Sangguniang Panlungsod despite summons.

Families of the dead construction workers, Sedeño and Balanlayos, revealed on Monday that 4GM engineer Romulo Menesis Balisnomo was pointing responsibility at a certain Lito Miranda who is not connected with the contruction company but was the one who recruited most of the workers at the Storm Drainage project. (With reports from Sonny Sales and Noriel Oya)