1,500 missing as Philippine village buried

Rescue workers are frantically digging through a mud-covered village on an eastern Philippine island on Friday after a mudslide roared down a mountain, burying homes and a school.

Rescue workers and sniffer dogs were frantically searching for survivors on an eastern Philippine island on Friday after a mudslide roared down a mountainside, wiping out an entire village.

About two dozen bodies have been recovered from the farming community on Leyte island, about 670 kilometres southeast of Manila. About 30 more people were being treated for injuries.

About 1,500 people are missing from the Guinsaugon village area of St. Bernard town, which was completely covered by as much as nine metres of mud.

One of the buildings buried was an elementary school attended by an unknown number of children.

Two other villages were affected by the morning landslide and about 3,000 evacuees were at a municipal building.

Witness Dario Libatan told Manila radio station DZMM that it sounded like the "mountain exploded and the whole thing crumbled."

Helicopters, navy ships and a military plane rushed to the island, but rainy weather was making the rescue effort difficult. Heavy equipment couldn't work in the mud – which was up to nine metres deep in some areas – so people were using their hands to dig for survivors.

The town's mayor said rescuers reported hearing thunder and booming noises from the mountain. They fear another mudslide, said Global Radio News reporter Dean Bernardo.

Heavy rains have pounded the area for two weeks and there were reports of a mild earthquake around the time of the mudslide, he said.

A spokesperson for the Pentagon said many of the 6,000 U.S. troops in the country were available to help, and that two U.S. warships were being sent to the island.

"Let us all pray for those who perished and were affected by this tragedy," President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said in a statement. "Help is on the way. It will come from land, sea and air."

Eva Tomol, a member of the provincial governing board, said many residents left the area last week because of the landslide threat, but had been making their way back as the rain started to ease.

A 1991 landslide on Leyte island killed 6,000 people.