02/17/2006, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Leyte landslide "worst tragedy ever to hit area"

Fr Eufemio Gohetia, director of the Social Action Centre of Maasin Diocese: "We don't have definite information and the people are in a total state of panic. Everything is covered with mud."

 Tacloban (AsiaNews) – "The worst tragedy ever to take place in this area is being made harder because it has not stopped raining and rescue work is being slowed down". This is how Fr Eufemio Gohetia, director of the Social Action Centre in Maasin Diocese, described the terrible landslide that struck the diocese at 10.45am (local time, 3.45 in Italy) in Guinsaugon area, in the southern part of Leyte island. The island is situated in the eastern part of the archipelago.

According to Roger Mercato, the province MP, between 3,000 and 4,000 people were living in Guinsaugon: as many as 2,000 "could be buried under the mud".

Fr Gohetia said: "This is a possibility because the region was in full activity: schools were open, as were shops. Now everything is covered by mud and we have no definite news about the 375 families who lived there."

"It has been raining for weeks," he continued. "The area has always been at the risk of avalanches. The last took place two years ago but it cannot be compared to this one. People are in a state of total panic and there is no way of calming them down: they need food and medicine." Another "urgent need" was to find "secure lodging as soon as possible".

"Together with helicopters and amphibious means of the army, which have been active in the area from the first hours of the emergency, we are trying to evacuate as many people as possible". All the same, "no definite information can be given. We must wait until the rain stops."

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