Buried village in Philippines: no signs of life

Rescue workers dug grimly Tuesday for a mud-swamped elementary school, but in a different spot from where they excitedly detected underground sounds a day earlier that they hoped were signs of life. The buzz that fed a sense of urgency Monday evening was gone. Ground-penetrating radar, capable of mapping structures up to 17 meters (50 feet) deep, found nothing.

Hopes of a miracle had focused on the school amid unconfirmed reports that survivors there sent cell phone text messages to relatives shortly after a mountainside collapsed Friday in a wall of mud and boulders that swamped the farming village of Guinsaugon on Leyte island.

But with the only survivors pulled out hours later, the prospects of finding life under mud believed to be up to 35 meters (more than 100 feet) deep were fading by the hour. The confirmed death toll was 93, and about 1,000 were missing and feared dead, said Dr. Adelaida Asperin, a Department of Health official on Leyte island.

The threat of more rain-triggered landslides slowed the search, as did confusion over where to dig and problems dealing with the wet mud. Excavations had centered Monday at a site where the school was believed to have sat, with some troops, miners and volunteers digging at a second site, about 200 meters (yards) away where some estimated the building might have been carried.

U.S. Marines, digging in shifts of 40 men, worked alongside Philippine troops and technical experts from Malaysia and Taiwan , but finally had to give up on the first site when the holes they created kept collapsing. "As we'd dig deeper, we'd try to dig wider, but with the rain last night ... there were little landslides happening around us," said Lt. Jack Farley, who was heading the Marine contingent. "The soil here is so unstable."

It also was unclear if the scratching and tapping noises that were heard Monday came from survivors or just ground water or the mud settling. "A few times we heard something, we think we heard something, because we really want to hear something," Farley said. "If there is anything at all, we're gonna go there."

Accurate information was hard to come by, too. "Even the local population has kind of lost their bearings," Farley said. "They don't have those terrain features around to distinguish where something really is."

Rescue teams used sensors in an effort to detect sounds and movements similar to those monitored on Monday. Joel Son, head of a rescue team of Filipino miners, said the mud was so deep that searchers had yet to find the school where up to 300 children were in class when the disaster struck, reports the AP.


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