Dozens buried alive in avalanche of rubbish at Manila squatter colony

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The Independent Online

At least 46 people died and scores were missing after a rubbish dump collapsed yesterday in a district called the Promised Land on the outskirts of the Philippine capital, Manila.

At least 46 people died and scores were missing after a rubbish dump collapsed yesterday in a district called the Promised Land on the outskirts of the Philippine capital, Manila.

More than 90 people were injured when the avalanche buried more than 100 houses, mostly shanties, in a squatter colony at the foot of the dump in the suburb of Quezon City around 7.30am local time, officials said. Nine hours after the collapse, moans could be heard from beneath the mountain of rubbish, according to the Manila radio station DZRH.

"Help us, our parents are buried below," eight-year-old Robee Pablo told rescue workers who found him and his sister, Sheryl, four, near the ruins of their house. The two children were covered with rubbish.

Officials said the collapse was caused by heavy rains brought by the typhoon Kai-Tak, which had battered the country for five days, loosening the dump's soil foundation. About 300 soldiers and volunteers, hampered by lack of cutting equipment, poor lighting from generators and bursts of rain tried to reach victims pinned underneath. The Red Cross said 72 people were missing and 1,500 were homeless. A soldier said he was told by his officer that 1,000 people were buried but that was not confirmed.

Survivors said they had heard a rumbling followed by an avalanche of mud and rubbish that swamped their wooden houses as one side of the 50ft-high heap gave way. As it crumbled, a live electric cable lit a pile of garbage, sparking a fire.

The Promised Land is a bleak underworld of 80,000 slum-dwellers, most of whom trek up the small mountain every day to forage for used plastic containers, bottles and broken toys and appliances to sell to junk shops. They also scavenge for food. They earn about 200 pesos (£3) a day.

Three times the size of a football field, the dump takes about one-quarter of the 4,500 tons of solid waste churned out daily by factories and homes in the city of 10 million people.

The Mayor, Mel Mathay, said residents had been ordered to move out of the area last week because of the danger of landslides brought on by Kai-Tak's onslaught. "But they refused," he said.

Kai-Tak swept towards Taiwan on Sunday after triggering floods that drowned 44 people on the Philippines' island of Luzon.

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