MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine search and rescue workers have recovered 100 bodies from the Payatas garbage dump after torrential rains brought down the mountain of garbage in the northern Manila suburb of Quezon city.
More than 100 other people are missing and may be dead. Fifty-eight people have been rescued, authorities said. About 780 others are in an evacuation center.
The AFP Disaster Response Task Group, a military rescue unit, estimates that up to a thousand people may have been buried.
People who make their living picking over the garbage for marketable and recyclable items were caught in the rubbish slide that now covers about a hectare (2.5 acres). A community of about 3,000 surrounds the Payatas dump in a cluster of homes constructed from scavanged materials.
President Joseph "Erap" Ejercito Estrada and First Lady Dr. Luisa "Loi" Ejercito Estrada are extending assistance to residents at the Payatas garbage site.
Quezon City Mayor Ismael Mathay Jr. said the First Lady went to the site Monday night and distributed food bags to 240 families rendered homeless by the garbage avalanche.
A week of heavy rains brought by typhoons Ditang and Edeng probably loosened the wall of garbage, officials said.
The dump was supposed to be closed last October, but it remains open because there is no alternative site for Quezon City's more than 700 tons of daily garbage.
Mercado reiterated the government's call to the Payatas residents to move to safer grounds. "We cannot allow people to live so dangerously under the shadow of death in that dump site," Mercado said in a radio interview.
He discouraged residents from returning to their old homes, adding that it is up to the local governments to take measures to prevent them from doing so.
"It's high time we come up with a national policy on solid waste management," Mercado said.
Officials say they have repeatedly tried to relocate the hundreds of scavengers and junk yard workers living around the dumpsite, but most have refused to leave or have returned shortly after being moved.
President Estrada ordered housing authorities Tuesday to look after the housing needs of residents rendered homeless by the collapse of the Payatas dumpsite in Quezon City.
In a radio interview, the President told dumpsite residents that government agencies, including the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council led by Secretary Leonora de Jesus, are working together to extend full assistance to them.
The Philippine national weather station has forecast summer monsoon rains.
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