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Last Updated: Monday, 20 February 2006, 13:20 GMT
'Noises' spur on mud rescue push
US marines on Leyte island
Search-and-rescue teams have been arriving from around the world
Rescuers searching for survivors of a landslide in the Philippines on Friday have renewed their efforts after noises were reportedly heard underground.

One local official said people had been found alive, but US marines searching in the area denied this was true.

The landslide, triggered by heavy rain, covered the village in metres of mud.

At least 76 people have been confirmed killed by the mudslide, with officials estimating the total number of dead at 1,000, some 800 fewer than feared.

The BBC's Andrew Harding, at the scene, says there were reports that rescuers heard tapping noises below the mud, but that there remains no sign of life.

The spot where the village of Guinsaugon once stood is a total wasteland, he adds.

Hopes dashed

Rescue workers in Guinsaugon have continued searching for survivors buried in the mud.

I asked had they received or found any type of survivors, and the answer was no
Captain Burrell Parmer,
US Marines

Efforts have focused on a school where 200 children and 40 teachers were thought to have been trapped.

It was not clear if noises heard on Monday were caused by continuing movement of the earth, which remains unstable in the wake of the landslide.

However, a Philippine government official told a local TV station that rescue teams had found 50 survivors within the wreckage.

That claim prompted swift denials from the US marines helping to co-ordinate the rescue.

"We have yet to recover any survivor," Captain Burrell Parmer told the same TV channel, ABS-CBN.

"I asked had they received or found any type of survivors, and the answer was no," he added.

Recovery teams have dug about halfway down to the school building, which was estimated to be buried in up to 35m (115 feet) of mud.

US marines and Taiwanese teams are using life-detecting sonar equipment in the search.

Estimates revised

Seventy-six people have been confirmed dead, but about 1,000 residents are still believed to be missing.

Click to see more detailed map of the area

The Philippine government revised its figures of the number of dead down from 1,800, based on a recent survey showing that Guinsaugon had a population of 1,420.

About 400 villagers were found to have been away from the area at the time of the landslide.

Many residents had left when the heavy rains began, fearing landslides. But some had returned as the weather improved, despite warnings.

An official said the figures were still only estimates.

Meanwhile, geologists who have assessed the area from the air say the mountain surrounding the collapsed ridge is very unstable.

Mass burial

On Sunday, 50 recovered bodies were buried in mass graves.

The graves were sprinkled with holy water and lime powder - a measure Health Secretary Francisco Duque said was needed to prevent disease from spreading.

"They are being buried in such a way that they can be exhumed later," he told Reuters news agency.

Foreign aid has also been offered in the shape of financial donations.

Australia has offered more than $700,000 and China about $1m to provide shelter and relief to survivors.

Officials said the mudslide happened after about 200cm of rain (79 inches) fell in the area in the space of 10 days.

Correspondents say the area lies in the path of several typhoons each year, and that coconut trees - which are common locally - have shallow roots which leave the soil vulnerable to landslides.

Rescue workers continue to search for survivors


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