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Death toll from Philippines landslide climbs to 68 | Climate News


At least 51 people are missing as officials say time is running out to find more survivors.

The death toll from a landslide in the southern Philippines has climbed to 68 as officials say the window for finding more survivors is closing.

Hundreds of rescuers have used their bare hands, shovels and heavy earth-moving equipment for nearly a week looking for those buried since Tuesday’s landslide hit the mountainous Masara village on Mindanao island.

More than a dozen bodies were pulled from the mud on Monday with 51 people still missing, including mine workers and villagers, according to official figures released by the municipal government.

“It is almost a week after the incident, and … we are assuming that no one is alive there,” Edward Macapili, spokesman for the Davao de Oro provincial disaster office, told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

“There is already a foul smell in the area now, so there’s a need to fast-track the retrieval.”

An area about 50 metres (164ft) deep remains to be searched, Macapili said.

A three-year-old girl was pulled alive from under the rubble on Friday, in what rescuers described as a “miracle”.

The landslide injured 32 people and buried 55 houses, three buses and a jeepney, a minibus converted from a jeep that was waiting for employees of a gold-mining firm.

Disaster authorities plan to shift their focus from search and rescue to search and retrieval beginning on Tuesday, Maco town disaster officer Ariel Capoy said.

Landslides are a frequent hazard across much of the archipelago nation due to its mountainous terrain, heavy rainfall and widespread deforestation from mining, slash-and-burn farming and illegal logging.

Rain has pounded parts of Mindanao on and off for weeks, triggering dozens of landslides and floods that have forced tens of thousands of people into emergency shelters.

The United States, through the US Agency for International Development, was providing $1.25m in humanitarian aid to the affected communities in the southern islands, its embassy in Manila said in a statement.

The US Department of Defense also provided two C-130 cargo planes to help deliver food packs to the affected communities.

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