[Edition 25] MANILA, Tuesday: At least 161 people died last week when a Manila dump in the Patayas area collapsed, burying the inhabitants of a shanty town built among the rubbish. The Philippines Armed Forces launched a huge rescue mission in response, and are very pleased with the success of their efforts so far.
[Edition 25] MANILA, Tuesday: At least 161 people have died in the last 7 days when a garbage dump in the Patayas area of Manila, the capital of the Philippines, collapsed, burying the inhabitants of a shanty town built among the rubbish. The Philippines Armed Forces launched a huge rescue mission in response, and are very pleased with the success of their efforts so far.
“Yesterday we found a refrigerator and a washing machine that work, so we were on a real high,” said Colonel Jaime Canatoy of the specially-assembled military task force. The dump has been in operation for at least 20 years and is believed to be home to about 80,000 people.
“With so many people living here, we thought that there was a really good chance of finding some of these squatters alive,” noted one soldier helping with the digging. “But we never expected to find something really special, like a microwave oven that still works, or fridge. This has been a really lucky day.”
The rescuers had considered giving up the search because of the increasing danger of disease associated with the deteriorating garbage. However, they have decided to come back in the hope that they can finish the job. “It seems a shame to give up when we are so close to entirely fitting out the officer’s mess with working appliances,” said one junior officer. “We cannot give up hope now. We found a dartboard the other day, and I’m willing to bet there are some darts in there somewhere.”
The task has been hindered by the number of dead bodies and the fact that the surviving slum dwellers continue to get in the way of searchers while crawling over the mounds of rubbish searching for food. Housing in the Philippines is in acute crisis, and an impromptu mortuary established alongside the garbage dump to hold the bodies of those who died has itself become a haven for those seeking somewhere to live, with a population of shanty-town dwellers now numbering over 300 huddling amongst the corpses. Many have been forced to move into the morgue because the Government has declared declared a state of emergency and re-classified the tip itself – once zoned ‘rotting garbage and miscellaneous residential’ – to be a ‘disaster area’, driving up property prices and forcing less well-heeled members of the community to look elsewhere for locations in which to eek out their miserable existence.
Finding food is also a constant challenge, and many residents subsist by finding morsels amongst the rotting detritus, a practice that Mr Abduran Cato, a spokesman for the dump’s Residents Association has assured the media was “not nearly as bad as you’d think – most insulation and other organic material has a taste similar to that which the old legends tell us is ‘chicken'”. “We are dead against cannibalism here,” said the spokesman, “But oh boy, I could kill for a rat or two.” Mr Cato denied that his members were simply meek and downtrodden, or “just trailer trash or the ‘scum of the Earth'” but conceded that “many members of our community are ambitious and upwardly mobile, so these kind of labels are not out of the question in the future.”