Philippine landslide death toll rises to 68

Manila: The death toll from a landslide that hit a gold-mining village in the southern Philippines rose to 68 on Monday, officials said, as searchers abandoned hope of finding any more survivors.

Hundreds of rescuers have used their bare hands, shovels and heavy earth-moving equipment for nearly a week looking for those buried when last 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 AFP.

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

An area around 50 metres (164 feet) deep remains to be searched, Macapili added.

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

The landslide buried three buses and a jeepney waiting for employees of a gold mining firm and 55 nearby houses, leaving 32 other people injured.

Authorities have vowed to continue the search until all those missing are recovered.

Landslides are a frequent hazard across much of the archipelago nation due to the 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.

Massive earthquakes have also destabilised the region in recent months.

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