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Last Updated: Friday, 17 February 2006, 14:17 GMT
Eyewitness: 'Mountain collapsed'
Dag Navarette
Dag Navarette recovered the bodies of a woman and a child on Friday
Hundreds of villagers are feared buried by a major landslide in the Philippines.

The BBC News website spoke to rescue worker Dag Navarette, who spent Friday at the devastated village of Guinsaugon helping to recover bodies and evacuate survivors.

When we arrived at the village, we were shocked at the scale of the disaster. A huge area has been affected.

The mountain rose to about 1,000m above sea level and it now looks as if about half of the mountain has collapsed onto the village.

The area is not yet stable. We had to call off the rescue because the mountain is still crumbling. We hear it rumbling all the time. It sounds like an army of tanks making for us.

The parents aren't around. Most of them have probably been buried by the landslide

The paddy fields are covered, it looks like an ice-cream of mud has melted down the hillside.

We have recovered 19 bodies so far. I'm here with the Southern Leyte emergency rescue team, the air force, army and the Red Cross. We arrived at 12 noon but in order to get here we had to cross two big rivers flowing furiously and walk for 1.5km.

Grim statistics

The statistics are scary. There are 320 households in the village but the average household has 5 inhabitants.

The landslide has also buried a school and we estimate that 246 pupils, 6 teachers and the principal were inside at the time.

We have evacuated 375 people from the area and surrounding villages. The parents aren't around. Most of them have probably been buried by the landslide.

We have recovered 19 bodies. I myself pulled out the body of woman and a child who must have been as young as my own daughter.

It's all so traumatic.

'Waist-deep mud'

People are in shock. The survivors we have picked out are in really bad shape. We're just pulling them out from the mud and it is waist-deep on the outer edges of the district.

The school is the biggest task for us. We have to recover those kids. First thing tomorrow morning, we will go back to the area.

Right now, we're managing the evacuation centre providing initial relief and counselling from the Red Cross.

Geological experts are coming tomorrow to assess the damage and try to work out the cause of the landslide. This is a very high ridge and the land lies along an earthquake fault.

We have had rain for over a week and the initial thoughts are that this was a major factor in the disaster.

But for now, we need more help. Evacuees need shelter and to continue our work tomorrow we need more equipment.


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