02/17/2006, 00.00
Philippines
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Philippines, landslide hits Leyte island: 200 dead, 1,500 missing

"The ground has really been soaked because of nonstop rains for two weeks". Red Cross: "There is no body count yet, it's our estimate".

Tacloban (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A massive landslide rumbled down a mountainside on an eastern Philippine island Friday, burying hundreds of houses and a school packed with elementary students. Red Cross officials estimated 200 people were dead and 1,500 others missing.

"It sounded like the mountain exploded, and the whole thing crumbled," survivor Dario Libatan told local radio. "I could not see any house standing anymore."

Senator Richard Gordon, head of the Philippine Red Cross, said an entire village appeared to have been buried on Leyte island. "There is no body count yet, it's our estimate," he told. "We're mobilizing rescue operations. This area is infamous for landslides."

The governor of Southern Leyte province, Rosette Lerias, told that 500 houses in Guinsaugon village in St. Bernard town were feared buried after nonstop rains for two weeks.

"The ground has really been soaked because of the rain," Lerias said. "The trees were sliding down upright with the mud."

In November 1991, about 6,000 people were killed on Leyte in floods and landslides triggered by a tropical storm.

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