Filipino village focuses on mudslide relief effort

Alessandro Roco

As of Wednesday, the official death toll for the village of Guinsaugon had reached 107, according to

However, Philippine officials fear that when all the bodies are recovered from the ongoing rescue efforts, the death toll will surpass 1,000.

Last Friday, a mudslide hit the Philippine village, leaving over a thousand missing, and many more without homes, food or clean water.

Since that fateful day, multiple searches have been conducted in an attempt to rescue any survivors, but hope is beginning to fade as not one survivor has been pulled out since the initial hours after the mountainside partially collapsed.

Rescue specialists from Philippine-allied countries, Taiwan, Malaysia and Spain, along with Philippine police, mine workers and military have collaborated in the search effort.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo visited the headquarters of the relief operation on Wednesday, about one half mile from the village.

She was briefed by from the provincial governor, shook hands with U.S. Marines and other rescue workers and met local residents who expressed their desperation.

“We were absolutely crushed by sorrow over what transpired,” Arroyo told CNN during a stop in nearby Cebu. “The loss of so many lives of men, women and children is too much to absorb.”

On Wednesday, a search was called off at an elementary school as the holes that the U.S. Marines had dug were beginning to collapse.

Heavy rains forced troops and volunteers to cease work for the day for fear of more mudslides.

In addition to the setbacks caused by the weather, plans by U.S. Marines to use a two-ton drill fell through when no one could find the braces for it.

The torrential rains, weather and inability to operate the drill presented yet another day of frustration in the small Filipino village as there was no sign of survivors that vanished under 100 feet of mud.

“As we’d dig deeper, we’d try to dig wider, but with the rain last night…there were little landslides happening around us,” Lt. Jack Farley, who was heading the Marine contingent, told The Associated Press. “The soil here is so unstable.”

As the possibility for survivors diminishes, however, Philippine authorities are now turning to relief efforts, trying to help those who have survived the disaster by providing food, shelter and clothing for the displaced victims.

“The Red Cross right now is slowly shifting into relief mode, addressing people who have been evacuated from the area, providing them mass feeding,” the head of the Philippine National Red Cross, Richard Gordon, told CNN on Tuesday.

To further the relief effort, more than 16 neighboring villages have been evacuated as officials fear the possibility of more mudslides.

However, the Red Cross did say that the hunt for survivors would continue to go on for as long as necessary despite the seemingly long odds.

“We will continue for as long as the resources hold [and] we intend to support the effort to try and recover bodies,” Gordon said.