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Landslide kills 25 on Philippine island ravaged by rain

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 7:34 PM EST, Thu January 5, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Rescue efforts are halted until the rain stops, a journalist at the scene says
  • NEW: People heard a rumbling sound, then were thrown from their homes by cascading mud
  • A local official says the landslide has killed 25 people and left more than 100 missing
  • Heavy rain since mid-December left the soil waterlogged

(CNN) -- A landslide in a remote area of the southern Philippines has killed 25 people and left more than 100 missing, the provincial governor said Thursday.

It is the latest natural disaster to strike the island of Mindanao after a tropical storm killed more than 1,200 people there last month.

The weather again appears to have played a part in Thursday's disaster, which took place in an area where small-scale miners go in search of gold. Almost-constant rain since mid-December had left the soil heavily waterlogged, said Gov. Arturo Uy of Compostela Valley Province.

The landslide happened around 3 a.m., according to a statement from the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Several people injured by the landslide have been taken to local hospitals, Uy said. In all, 16 people had been saved, officials said.

The area was known to be dangerous, Uy said, noting that it had been evacuated for a period last year after a deadly landslide struck in April not far from the site of Thursday's disaster.

Journalist Ben Tesiorna, who is based in Davao City in the Philippines, flew in a military helicopter to Pantukan in the Compostela Valley Thursday morning to cover the mudslide.

There was no way for the helicopter to land at the scene, he told CNN via e-mail from the Pantukan area, but he was able to speak to some of the survivors who had been taken to the hospital.

"They said that they first heard a warning shot from the guards at the top of the mountain, then a few seconds after they heard a loud rumbling sound, then they were already thrown out of their shanties by the cascading earth," Tesiorna said.

"One of the survivors said they were lucky enough to have stuck at a tree, thus they were able to climb their way out of the landslide path," he said. "They saw some of their friends and neighbors shouting for help before the earth engulfed them."

Some of those killed have been identified as children as young as 6 years old, Tesiorna said.

Survivors said the landslide buried about 62 houses, all of which were inhabited at the time of the landslide.

The authorities decided to call off the search late Thursday because of the risk of further landslides, Tesiorna said. They will resume their efforts when the rain stops and the ground stabilizes, he said.

He said the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council had told reporters that 22 bodies had been retrieved from the landslide area, and eight people were still missing.

CNN's Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.

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