Officials in The Philippines say it is unlikely that any of the dozens of people thought to be buried in a huge landslide set off by Typhoon Mangkhut will be found alive.
Rescuers are still digging through the massive mound of mud and debris covering a chapel where they had sheltered.
Mayor Victorio Palangdan of Itogon town in Benguet province, among the worst-hit by the typhoon that struck on Saturday, said at a news conference that of the 40 to 50 people thought buried, there’s a “99% [chance] that they really are all dead”.
Mangkhut has killed 65 people since it tore through the Philippines. The storm killed another four people in China, where Mangkhut weakened to a tropical storm as it moved inland on Monday.
Mr Palangdan said rescuers have dug out 11 bodies from the slide, which is covering a former miners’ bunkhouse that had been turned into a chapel.
Dozens of residents sought shelter there during the storm despite warnings it was dangerous.
“They laughed at our policemen. They insisted,” he said. “They were resisting when our police tried to pull them away. What can we do?”
Hundreds of rescuers, including police and soldiers, scrambled to search for the missing as grief-stricken relatives waited nearby, many of them quietly praying.
“We will not stop until we recover all the bodies,” Mr Palangdan said.
Most of those buried in the slide are thought to be poor miners and their families. In order to prevent such tragedies going forward, Environmental Secretary Roy Cimatu said the government would deploy soldiers and police to stop illegal mining in six mountainous northern provinces, including Benguet.
Philippine officials have said in the past that gold mines tunnelled by big mining companies legally or by unauthorised individuals and small outfits have made the hillsides unstable and more prone to landslides.
Tens of thousands of small-time miners in recent years have come to the mountain provinces from the lowlands and established communities in high-risk areas like the mountain foothills of Itogon.
Mangkhut on Monday was still affecting southern China’s coast and the provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi and Hainan and rain and strong winds were expected to continue through Tuesday.