Published: Fri, September 21, 2018

Philippines landslide victims 'sent texts from underneath rubble'

Philippines landslide victims 'sent texts from underneath rubble'

Bodies lie inside a chapel after they were recovered from a landslide that struck homes in Naga city.

MANUAL SEARCH A team of government rescuers use shovels and pickaxes to dig through earth and rocks that buried a community near a limestone quarry in the city of Naga in Cebu province.

"President Duterte mentioned that he has directed NHA (National Housing Authority) GM Jun Escalada and HUDCC (Housing and Urban Development Development Coordinating Council) Chair Ed Del Rosario to immediately visit the City of Naga, and to coordinate with Cebu Gov. Jun Davide and Naga Mayor Kristine Chiong for the provision of housing for the victims", the President's assistant Christopher Go said.

"We're really hoping we can still recover them alive", she said. "Some of them managed to send text messages", Gonzales told reporters.

Mr Cimatu announced the suspension on quarrying operations pending safety assessments as search and rescue operations continued at the site on the central island of Cebu.

Numerous deaths occurred in Itogon, in northern Benguet province, where the world's strongest storm of the year set off a major landslide that hit a bunkhouse where people were taking shelter from the typhoon.

Cristita Villarba, a 53-year-old resident, described how she had heard a roar and then felt the ground shake.

"We're running out of time".

"It was like an quake and there was this thundering, loud banging sound", resident Cristita Villarba told news agency AP. "Some wanted to help those who got hit but there was too much earth covering the houses, including my brother's", she said.

Outside, she saw the house of her older brother, Lauro, and his family buried in the landslide.

"Many of our neighbours were crying and screaming for help". The ground in the area is still vibrating. "We're striking a balance between intensifying our rescue efforts and ensuring the safety of our rescuers", Naga City councilor Carmelino Cruz said. She said her husband and three children were shocked but unhurt.

A few days ago, the President also visited Benguet province where dozens were killed in landslides near mining areas in the aftermath of typhoon "Ompong" (international name: Mangkhut).

"I had no idea we would be the next", she said.

It's not clear what set off the landslide, but some residents blamed limestone quarries, which they suspect may have caused cracks in the mountainside facing their villages.

While he admits that the mining industry of the country has contributed P70 billion in revenues to the government, the President said this is not enough to compensate for the loss of lives and grief when disasters happen. Poverty forces many people to live in vulnerable areas, making natural disasters more deadly.

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