Death toll from Philippines landslide climbs to 68 | Climate News

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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 risen to 68 as officials say the window to find more survivors is closing.

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

More than a dozen bodies were pulled from the mud 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 assume that there is no one alive,” Edward Macapili, spokesman for the Davao de Oro regional disaster office, told the Agence France-Presse news agency .

“There is a foul odor in the area now, so the search must be expedited.”

An area about 50 meters (164 feet) deep remains to be explored, Macapili said.

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

A landslide injured 32 people and buried 55 houses, three buses and a jeepney, a small bus converted from a jeep that was waiting for workers of a gold mining company.

Disaster authorities plan to shift their focus from search and rescue to search and recovery starting Tuesday, Maco city disaster officer Ariel Capoy said.

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

Rain has pummeled 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 $1.25 million in humanitarian aid to the affected communities in the southern islands, the embassy in Manila said in a statement.

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

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