Buried for ten days, the churchgoers who lived on dripping water

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The Independent Online

Four people, including a toddler, were pulled alive yesterday from the rubble of a destroyed building in the Philippines after surviving a 10-day ordeal by drinking water dripping on to them from the collapsed ceiling.

Four people, including a toddler, were pulled alive yesterday from the rubble of a destroyed building in the Philippines after surviving a 10-day ordeal by drinking water dripping on to them from the collapsed ceiling.

Maria Tamares, 50, and her three-year-old grandchild had been attending a church service in the cramped basement chapel of the two-storey building in the town of Real, when the typhoon struck, burying them alive.

At least 100 people were believed to have been inside, with four managing to scramble out just after the building was hit by a wall of mud, boulders and logs. About 40 bodies have been found in the devastation.

Real bore the brunt of a typhoon and three tropical storms that savaged the provinces north and east of the capital, Manila, in a fortnight that left 929 dead and 837 missing.

"My grandchild told me: 'Don't worry grandma, we will come out of this alive'," Mrs Tamares said while lying on a stretcher.

Two 14-year-old boys who were rescued with them were taken to hospital in an advanced state of malnutrition.

Rescuers believe that many more were trapped alive inside the chapel used by born-again Christians. Mrs Tamares said that they had heard voices elsewhere in the rubble up to 24 hours before they were found.

She said she had felt they were inside a crypt because there was not enough space to stand up or even sit up straight. "It was God who saved us," Mrs Tamares said. "I could not explain where we got our strength to last for days without food."

Soldiers and miners had been clearing debris at the site when they hear faint cries for help from under the rubble. Using torches, sledgehammers, hacksaws and boltcutters, the rescuers punched a hole through the thick concrete roof to reach the survivors.

"We never expected any survivors from the ruins," said Captain Gerry Sultana. "After three days of digging, we only found decomposing bodies."

Emergency services continued to dig frantically through the wreckage last night, but were pessimistic over finding further survivors after hauling out six corpses.

Mrs Tamares said they had survived by drinking any kind of liquid that dripped through the rubble. They were able to keep track of time while trapped under tonnes of concrete slabs and mud by listening to the engines of heavy digging equipment.

"When the humming of the engines stopped, then it was probably night-time and I told the children to sleep one more time and hope that when we wake up, we will be rescued," she told reporters.

Rescue teams are getting food, clean water and tents to at least 650,000 survivors who lost nearly everything when their villages were wiped out..

Logging has again been blamed for worsening the effects of a natural disaster. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who flew to Lucena yesterday to visit the survivors, said at the weekend she was cancelling permits to cut and haul trees.

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