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Last Updated: Friday, 24 February 2006, 18:47 GMT
Philippine mudslide rescue halted
Rescue work in Guinsaugon, Philippines
The focus will now be on rehabilitation, officials say
Rescuers in the Philippines have abandoned the search for survivors of a mudslide that engulfed a village a week ago and left about 1,000 feared dead.

The governor of Southern Leyte province said the focus would turn to rehabilitation of the surviving villagers of Guinsaugon.

More than 130 bodies have been found but about 950 people are missing.

More than 240 pupils and teachers were believed to have been in a primary school that was buried.

Officials say the number of dead may be lower than thought, as about 400 people were away when the landslide hit.

False school hopes

Southern Leyte province governor Rosette Lerias said: "We have collectively decided to stop the search and rescue phase of the operation.

"We have decided to move on to recovery and rehabilitation of survivors because our greater responsibility... is to rebuild the lives of those who have been devastated by this disaster."

Ms Lerias said more heavy rain on Friday had caused the local river to rise, endangering rescuers.

Click to see more detailed map of the area

"Nature was working against us," she said.

"It is with a sense of disappointment that they were not able to find survivors but also with a sense of satisfaction that they have done their very best."

A series of unconfirmed reports of survivors had bolstered relatives' hopes but rescuers have for some days said that no-one could still be alive.

Ms Lerias said a roof thought to be that of the school, which was spotted on Thursday, had turned out to be that of a house. The school has still not been located.

About 1.2 million cubic meters (42.4m cubic feet) of earth covering 300 hectares (741.30 acres) fell on the village last Friday.

Search teams will continue to look for bodies over the next two weeks.

They will then shore up the earth, with the bodies of the remaining victims still buried, and create a memorial at the site.

Puji Pujiono, head of the UN disaster assessment team at the site, said it was important now to care for the thousands of evacuees.


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