Death Toll Rises in Manila Garbage Dump Collapse

At least 115 bodies have been recovered at press time and several hundred others are believed missing following a 25-acre, seven-story-high garbage pile collapse on a shantytown in Quezon City, Philippines, outside Manila on July 10.

The mountain of garbage, on which several thousand impoverished squatters climbed daily to search for salvageable items to sell, had been loosened by recent typhoon rains.

Immediately after the collapse, rescue teams with crude digging equipment plunged knee-deep in the toxic mixture of garbage and mud - which had burst into flames - risking infection and disease from the decomposition and chemical reactions as they searched for survivors.

More than 24 hours after the incident, rescuers stopped looking for survivors in the garbage pile and begun searching for bodies buried in the shantytown, ironically called the Promised Land.

Long recognized as a symbol of the desperate poverty in the Philippines, approximately 600 scavengers, including young children, live and work in the shantytown. Most of the children do not go to school.

The inhabitants earn about the equivalent of $4.50 per day selling articles they find on the garbage pile to junk shops.

According to one estimate, more than 200 shacks in the town were crushed, and 29 people were injured in the collapse. Approximately 800 people had been taken to emergency shelters.

The site was to be closed permanently last December, but the plan was postponed after residents at a San Mateo, Philippines landfill protested having garbage from Manila dumped in their city's facility.