M A N I L A, Philippines, July 11 -- Hope of finding more survivors is fading fast in the Philippines, after a mountain of garbage collapsed on top of a nearby shantytown and then burst into flames.
“It’s almost impossible to get anybody alive at this time,after 24 hours,” said Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado, who alsoheads the National Disaster Coordinating Council.
The National Disaster Coordinating Council said about 300 squatter shanties and hundreds of residents near the dumpsite in the Quezon City suburb were feared buried.
More than 90 corpses had so far been retrieved from the dumpsite, called Lupang Pangako, or “the Promised Land” in the local Tagalog language. The council said 59 people had been rescued alive.
More victims are expected, with estimates of those missing ranging from 72 by the Red Cross to 300 by community leader Emerita Pecsonat.
Quezon City mayor Mel Mathay says even the government is fuzzy on the actual numbers of families living in Manila’ s grimy and dangerous zones.
“They are not in the census. These are scavengers living inshanties, they’re a moving population,” he said.
Land of Hell
Some 44 percent of the 10 million population of Manila live in poverty, in garbage dumps, by polluted waterways, under highway and railway bridges and on the sides of rail tracks.
The poorest among these live near or at garbage dumps, defying disease and the stink and scavenging in the garbage to eke out a living.
TheLupang Pangako dump is one of the largest in Manila and takes in about 1,500 tons ofgarbage each day.
”This is the Land of Hell,” said Wilson Carpio, a relative of one of the dead. “In the dry season there are flames all around. In the rainy season there are landslides. But we cannot leave this place because we are poor.”
“The way I see it, there is no more chance, because all those who were recovered were all dead, because they were burnt,” said Gema Esperilla, another victim’s relative. “I have no more hope that they are alive, but even if they are already dead, I just want to see them.”