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Philippine Landslide Kills 15          09/20 06:39

   NAGA, Philippines (AP) -- A massive landslide buried dozens of homes near a 
central Philippine mountain Thursday, killing at least 15 people and sending 
rescuers scrambling to find survivors after some sent text messages pleading 
for help.

   The slide surged down on about 30 houses in two rural villages after 
daybreak in Naga city in Cebu province, Roderick Gonzales, the city police 
chief, told The Associated Press by telephone as he helped supervise the search 
and rescue. Seven injured villagers were rescued from the huge mound of earth 
and debris.

   Some victims still managed to send text messages after the landslide hit, 
Gonzales said, adding elderly women and a child were among the dead.

   Naga city Mayor Kristine Vanessa Chiong said by telephone that at least 64 
people remained missing.

   "We're really hoping we can still recover them alive," she said. 

   The landslide hit while several northern Philippine provinces were still 
dealing with deaths and widespread damage wrought by Typhoon Mangkhut, which 
pummeled the agricultural region Saturday and left at least 88 people dead and 
more than 60 missing. A massive search was still underway for dozens of people 
feared dead after landslides in the gold-mining town of Itogon in the north.

   Cebu province was not directly hit by Mangkhut but the massive typhoon 
helped intensify monsoon rains across a large part of the archipelago, 
including the central region, where Naga city lies about 570 kilometers (353 
miles) southeast of Manila.

   Rescuers there were treading carefully in small groups on the unstable 
ground to avoid further casualties.

   "We're running out of time. The ground in the area is still vibrating. We're 
striking a balance between intensifying our rescue efforts and ensuring the 
safety of our rescuers," Naga city Councilor Carmelino Cruz said by phone.

   Cristita Villarba, a 53-year-old resident, told AP by phone that her husband 
and son were preparing to leave for work when the ground shook and they were 
overwhelmed by a roar.

   "It was like an earthquake and there was this thundering, loud banging 
sound. All of us ran out," Villarba said, adding she, her husband and three 
children were shocked but unhurt.

   Outside, she saw the house of her elderly brother, Lauro, and his family was 
buried in the landslide.

   "Many of our neighbors were crying and screaming for help. Some wanted to 
help those who got hit but there was too much earth covering the houses, 
including my brother's," she said.

   More than a dozen people live in her brother's home, mostly his family and 
grandchildren, she said, adding that many small houses in her community got hit.

   A few days ago, Villarba said she felt sorry for the landslide victims in 
the country's north.

   "I had no idea we will be the next," she said. 

   It's not clear what set off the landslide, but some residents blamed 
limestone quarries, which they suspect may have damaged and caused cracks in 
the mountainside facing their villages. Villarba said a light rain stopped when 
the landslide hit and there was no rain on Wednesday.

   The quarry nearest the landslide-hit villages was abandoned about a year 
ago, but a company still runs a government-authorized quarry not far away and 
villagers also profit from the limestone business, Angeline Templo, an 
assistant to the mayor, said by phone.

   More than 300 villagers were evacuated for safety as search and rescue work 
continued, Templo said.

   Naga is a coastal city with a population of more than 100,000. 


(KA)

 
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