02/20/2006, 00.00
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"No sign of life" in buried school

Rescue workers are working in incessant rain on Leyte Island, to dig up the mud burying a building where between 250 and 300 people, mostly children, are believed to be trapped. "It's like working in quicksand," said one rescue leader. "But the number of those missing should be less than predicted."

Guinsaugon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Rescue workers digging on the site of the elementary school of Guinsaugon "have no indications to believe that anyone survived the disaster", a Filipino army official said. Lieutenant-Colonel Raul Farnacio said: "The school was buried in up to 35 metres of mud and recovery teams had dug about half-way down to the building. So far, we have not seen any sign of life."

The school was situated in the heart of the village – in the southern part of Leyte Island in the east of the archipelago – which was struck by a terrible landslide on Friday at 10.45am (local time).

Thirty members of the US army and a team of Taiwanese volunteers are taking part in rescue operations; they are using sonar equipment to monitor the area where they believe between 250 and 300 people were buried, most of them children.

Many teams of Filipino volunteers are also at work: together with the army, they are digging to excavate at least the bodies of victims: yesterday evening, 68 corpses were extracted from the mud. But the rains – still pouring – make all operations difficult.

"It's like working in quicksand," said Adriano Fuego, director of the Office of Civil Defence. He gave new estimates of survivors and missing shortly afterwards, saying that according to the last local census, around 913 people were missing and not 1,408. But he admitted that "at the moment, this is only an estimate". Now, "certain survivors" are 435, of who 20 are "seriously injured".

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See also
Race against time to save over 200 children in Leyte
Philippines, landslide hits Leyte island: 200 dead, 1,500 missing
Leyte landslide "worst tragedy ever to hit area"
Leaving Guinsaugon as a massive cemetery, officials propose
"Each family mourns at least one loss" after landslide


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