More Bodies Found In Manila Landslide Tragedy
MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine soldiers and rescue workers scoured the ruins of a collapsed housing estate in Manila for survivors Friday as relatives of the dozens still buried three days after the disaster said they had given up hope.
''We are still in the rescue mode although hopes may be dimming,'' Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado told Reuters in a telephone interview after rescue workers said they had so far found 33 bodies in the rubble of the Cherry Hills housing estate.
Between 30 to 40 people are believed still buried under the wreckage of the estate for middle-income Filipinos.
Some 25 houses in Cherry Hills collapsed and about 100 others were severely damaged when the hillside on which the estate is located caved in under heavy rains Tuesday.
''We are still hopeful that we will be able to find some survivors,'' Mercado said.
The deaths bring to 92 the number of confirmed dead from electrocution, drowning and landslides in Manila and nearby provinces as a result of heavy rains and floods which began last weekend.
Thirty five survivors were found hours after the landslide, but no one has been found alive since.
''I just want to see the body of my mother and my sister,'' a wailing Leticia Templo-Banal told Reuters Television. ''I'm tired of all these interviews. I just need your help...have mercy on us.''
''I've given up hope. I know they are already dead. They could not have survived this,'' Templo-Banal, a middle-aged woman, said as she pointed to a mangled house in the estate where her 76-year old mother and two sisters once lived. One sister managed to escape.
Asked if he still expected survivors, a policeman at the site said: ''Maybe not. From the gate (of the estate) you can smell the stench of dead bodies.''
Relatives of other missing residents also waited anxiously around the estate as rescue teams using cranes, hammer and their bare hands searched the debris.
''The rescue will last until we are convinced...that there are no more Filipinos to rescue,'' military chief Gen. Angelo Reyes told a news conference. Reyes said care had to be taken in sifting through the debris of the hundreds of houses which were damaged.
''The soil structure and buildings are so unstable that if you hurry up the removal of the debris, the whole thing might collapse,'' he said.
More than 1.7 million people have been affected by this week's flooding, including 59,000 people still in evacuation centers.
Estimated losses to crops, fisheries and livestock amounted to 373.27 million pesos ($9.5 million), the Department of Agriculture said in a report. It said some 117,900 hectares of ricelands were flooded.
The rains eased Friday but some areas were still flooded in some parts of Manila and nearby provinces, disaster officials said.
The meteorological office has said there could be heavy rains over the weekend.
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