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Philippines landslide: 50 people feared missing under rubble

Rescuers search for landslide survivors in Naga City, on the popular tourist island of Cebu, September 20, 2018.

Rescuers were still searching Friday for at least 50 people feared buried under debris up to 15 meters deep following a landslide in the Philippines Thursday.

The landslide followed several days of heavy rain in Naga city, Cebu province, a popular island destination, though the incident occurred away from the tourist beaches, some 21 kilometers south of Cebu City.

By Friday afternoon, 25 bodies had been pulled from the rubble, which is thought to have covered up to 60 homes, across an area the size of about 10 football pitches, CNN Philippines reported.

On Thursday, rescuers said families had received text messages from loves ones feared buried in the mud, raising hopes that they were sheltering in air pockets in the debris. By Friday, there was no sign of life.

“The whole area is isolated. And we don’t find any movements, not even the waving of hands (from the victims),” said Baltazar Tribunalo, head of the Cebu Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in a news conference Friday.

The city didn’t take a direct hit from Super Typhoon Mangkhut that made landfall in the country last weekend, but the storm system — the world’s biggest this year — dumped heavy rain on the area.

Connie Fernandez, a journalist with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, told CNN residents had complained about cracks along the mountain slope three weeks ago, but were assured that the village was safe. On the top of the mountain is a quarry site used by a cement company, she said.

The night before the landslide, heavy rain prompted local officials to evacuate the residents of Barangay Tinaan, but not everybody left.

Fernandez said moments before the landslide residents felt a slight tremor and heard what sounded like thunder before mounds of soil and rock cascaded down the mountain on homes below.

Local media SunStar Cebu posted images on its social media account Thursday showing rescuers pulling people from the rubble on stretchers.

Philippines Red Cross CEO Richard Gordon posted on Twitter that the organization had responded to the deadly collapse in the early hours of Thursday.

Details of all the dead have not emerged but they include a four-year-old child and an elderly woman, bureau of fire protection rescue chief Samuel Tadeo said.

Another deadly landslide

The incident comes just days after another deadly landslide in the mining town of Itogon, in the Cordillera region in the north of Luzon, killed at least 27 people.

The rockfall destroyed hundreds of homes and buried dozens of people, mostly miners who worked in small-scale mines and their families.

That landslide, on Saturday, was triggered by heavy rains brought by Typhoon Mangkhut — known locally as Ompong.

Mangkhut, the strongest storm of 2018, left 63 people dead, 42 injured and dozens missing as it cut a destructive streak across Luzon, the most populous island in the Philippines.

While emergency signals were raised ahead of the storm’s approach, locals said they were shocked by the degree of the devastation.

“This is the first time I’ve seen this kind of landslide. It’s massive and almost everyone is affected. Even the miners are helping the rescuers, the police — everyone is giving their best,” one rescuer said.