Hope Fades for Buried School Survivors; Relief Efforts Continue

Rescue workers in the mud-engulfed village of Guinsaugon have lost hope in finding survivors of the buried elementary school as they continue to dig at another spot from where they detected underground sounds the day before.

Following a day of excitement and unfulfilled expectations of finding survivors, rescuers “dug grimly” on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

Hopes were high on Monday after “signs of life” were detected by high-tech sound equipments at the site of a buried elementary school in the Philippine farming village of Guinsaugon, 420 miles southeast of Manila. The detected sounds combined with unconfirmed reports that some of the trapped children and teachers may have sent cell phone text messages to relatives soon after Friday’s disasters caused rescue workers to focus their efforts on the site of the school.

However, no survivors were found but rather only more dead bodies.

"A few times we heard something, we think we heard something, because we really want to hear something," Lt. Jack Farley, who was heading the Marine contingent, told AP. "If there is anything at all, we're gonna go there."

The confirmed death toll is 107 and about 1,000 are still missing and feared dead, said Dr. Adelaida Asperin, a Department of Health official on Leyte island to AP. Earlier reports estimated a death toll of up to 1,800 after the mudslide triggered by heavy rains over the last two weeks swept away hundreds of houses and schools in Guinsaugon on Friday.

In response to the disaster, Christian and relief groups have been coordinating with partners in the areas to provide immediate relief and support for long term recovery.

The Salvation Army, which has been working in the Philippines since 1937, began its response to the Philippine mudslide on Sunday by providing spiritual ministry and had begun the process of obtaining food, blankets, mats and mosquito nets.

In addition, the Salvation Army is trying to establish contact with a Salvation Army church in the vicinity, which at the present time is inaccessible.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief on Friday said it anticipated working with partners in the area, including the Manila, Davao and Baguio episcopal areas of the United Methodist Church in the Philippines, to provide immediate relief and support for long-term recovery.

The humanitarian agency of the United Methodist Church had also asked for prayers and financial support as it responds to the mudslide.

According to reports, the disaster is not over for those who survived the deadly landslide. Survivors are contracting chickenpox and other infectious diseases that broke out in packed evacuation centers.

So far medics has diagnosed nine cases of chickenpox, three cases of measles and three cases of sore eyes, reported Reuters.

The digging, meanwhile, has been slowed by officials’ refusal to allow heavy machinery in the disaster area for fear it could cause the unstable mud to shift, AP reported.

Rescuers are using shovels and their hands to dig through the mud.