Soldiers were being shuttled to the disaster zone in the shovels of bulldozers that carried them across a shallow stream. They were given sketches of the village so they could figure out approximately where the houses used to be. Farnacio said the troops were digging only where they saw clear evidence of bodies because of the danger that the soft, unstable mud could shift and claim new victims. “We can only focus on the surface,” he said. “We cannot go too deep.” Low clouds hung over the area, obscuring the mountain that disintegrated Friday morning after two weeks of heavy rains, covering the village’s 375 homes and elementary school. Rescue workers trudged slowly through the sludge, stretchers and ambulances waiting for survivors or the bodies of victims. Joining them was Dionisio Elmosora, a 42-year-old farmer who was looking for his wife and two sons. “What’s important is for me to find them even if they’re dead,” said Elmosora, his eyes bloodshot and his face grief-stricken. “I’ve not eaten since this thing happened.” The landslide left Guinsaugon, which is on the southern part of Leyte Island, looking like a giant patch of newly plowed land. “Our village is gone, everything was buried in mud,” Eugene Pilo, who lost his family, told local media Friday. “All the people are gone.” “It sounded like the mountain exploded, and the whole thing crumbled,” Dario Libatan, who lost his wife and three children, told DZMM. “I could not see any house standing anymore.” A helicopter pilot, Leo Dimaala, estimated that half the mountain had collapsed Friday morning. “We did not find injured people,” said Ricky Estela, a crewman on a helicopter that flew a politician to the scene. “Most of them are dead and beneath the mud.” Aerial TV footage showed a wide swath of mud alongside stretches of green rice paddies at the foothills of the scarred mountain. Pat Vendetti, of the Greenpeace environmental action group, said although logging is illegal in the Philippines, a combination of poor governance and corruption has hampered enforcement of the law. “There were similar landslides at the end of 2004 and the end of 2003, both directly linked to illegal logging on land above villages, and both in the Philippines,” said Vendetti. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies blamed a combination of the weather and the type of trees prevalent in the area. “The remote coastal area of southern Leyte … is heavily forested with coconut trees,” the Red Cross said from Geneva. “They have shallow roots, which can be easily dislodged after heavy rains, causing the land to become unstable.” Southern Leyte province Gov. Rosette Lerias said many residents evacuated the area last week because of the threat of landslides or flooding, but had started returning home during increasingly sunny days, with the rains limited to evening downpours. Even before the landslide, “trees were sliding down upright with the mud,” Lerias said. Army Capt. Edmund Abella said he and about 30 soldiers were wading through waist-deep mud. “It’s very difficult, we’re digging by hand, the place is so vast and the mud is so thick,” Abella told The Associated Press by cell phone. “When we try to walk, we get stuck in the mud.” He said the troops had just rescued a 43-year-old woman who “was crying and looking for her three nephews, but they were nowhere to be found.” Abella called the conditions extremely hazardous. “A few minutes ago, mounds of earth came down from the mountain again with the rain and rescuers ran away to safety,” Abella said. “Help is on the way,” President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said in televised remarks. “It will come from land, sea and air.” The International Red Cross launched an emergency appeal for $1.5 million for relief operations. The U.S. military dispatched at least two warships and other forces to the scene to provide medical assistance and other relief. The United States also is sending money requested by the Philippine government for search and rescue, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said. He did not say how much would be sent. Last weekend, seven road construction workers died in a landslide after falling into a 150- foot-deep ravine in the mountain town of Sogod on Leyte. In 1991, about 6,000 people were killed on Leyte in floods and landslides triggered by a tropical storm. An additional 133 people died in floods and mudslides there in 2003. In 1944, the waters off Leyte Island became the scene of the biggest naval battle in history, when U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur fulfilled his famed vow “I shall return” and routed Japanese forces occupying the Philippines. Looking back Some of the major landslides in the Philippines in recent years: Feb. 17, 2006: Rain-soaked mountainside disintegrates into torrent of mud, swamping villages on eastern Leyte island. At least 23 people die, an additional 1,500 missing. February 2005: Landslides and flash floods triggered by torrential rains kill 13 in eastern and southern Philippines. December 2004: A powerful rainstorm triggers landslides and flash floods in the east that kill nearly 1,500 people. December 2003: Landslides kill at least 160 people in eastern Philippines. September 2003: Monsoon rains cause mudslide in southern mining village, killing 22 miners and a 5-year-old boy. November 2001: Tropical storm kills 171 people, leaves 118 missing in central Philippines. July 2001: Typhoon Utor kills 121 people in northern city of Baguio. July 1996: Typhoon Gloria pummels Philippines’ main island, killing 20 people and leaving six missing. November 1995: Killer typhoon leaves 500 dead, displaces more than 500,000. October 1995: Tropical Storm Cybil slams into heart of Philippines, killing 28. September 1995: Flash floods triggered by massive landslides that plunged into a lake kill 15 people in southern Philippines. January 1995: Mudslides and flash floods kill 20 people, with 45 missing, in central Philippines. November 1991: Tropical storm triggers floods and landslides on Leyte that kill about 6,000 people. – Associated Press160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant “We presume that more or less that 1,800 are feared dead,” a grim Farnacio said as search efforts resumed today in a drenching rain and high winds that made the task even more miserable. Only 57 survivors have been found – none so far today – out of a population of 1,857. At least 24 bodies have been pulled from the mud, and a child who was rescued died overnight from head injuries. The search was focusing on an elementary school amid unconfirmed reports that relatives of the 250 children and teachers had received mobile phone text messages from survivors. Only one girl and a woman had been rescued alive nearby. Many blamed persistent rains and illegal logging in Guinsaugon, about 400 miles east of the capital, Manila. The logging “stopped around 10 years ago,” Roger Mercado, a member of Congress who represents the area, told Manila radio station DZBB. “But this is the effect of the logging in the past.” GUINSAUGON, Philippines – The village of Guinsaugon disappeared Friday. And so did nearly every man, woman and child who lived in this eastern Philippines farming community of 1,857 people. Only a few jumbles of corrugated steel sheeting, sticking up from 30 feet of sludge, indicate Guinsaugon ever existed. Rescue workers held little hope today of finding more survivors from a devastating landslide that sent a wall of mud and boulders tumbling down the mountain at a terrifying speed. Lt. Col. Raul Farnacio, the highest-ranking military officer at the scene, estimated the death toll at about 1,800.