GUINSAUGON, Philippines -- Rescue workers held little hope today of finding more survivors from a landslide that killed an estimated 1,800 people, saying this farming village in the eastern Philippines was swallowed whole by a wall of mud and boulders.
The search was focusing on an elementary school amid unconfirmed reports that relatives of the 250 children and teachers had received mobile-phone text messages from survivors. Only one girl and a woman had been rescued alive nearby.
Many blamed persistent rains and illegal logging for yesterday's disaster.
The logging ''stopped around 10 years ago," Roger Mercado, a member of Congress who represents the area, told Manila radio station DZBB. ''But this is the effect of the logging in the past."
Soldiers were being shuttled to the disaster zone in the shovels of bulldozers that carried them across a shallow stream. With the mud estimated at 30 feet deep at some points, they were given sketches of the village so they could figure out approximately where the houses once stood.
Lieutenant Colonel Raul Farnacio, the highest ranking military officer at the scene, estimated the death toll at 1,800 -- nearly every man, woman, and child who lived in Guinsaugon, about 400 miles east of the capital, Manila.
Search efforts resumed today in a drenching rain and high winds. Only 57 survivors have been found out of a population of 1,857. At least 24 bodies have been pulled from the mud, and a child who was rescued died overnight from head injuries.
Farnacio said the troops were digging only where they saw clear evidence of bodies because of the danger that the soft, unstable mud could shift and claim new victims.
''We can only focus on the surface," he said. ''We cannot go too deep."
Low clouds hung over the area, obscuring the mountain that disintegrated yesterday morning after two weeks of heavy rains, covering the village's 375 homes and elementary school.
Rescue workers trudged slowly through the sludge. Stretchers and ambulances waited for survivors or the bodies of victims. Joining them was Dionisio Elmosora, a 42-year-old farmer who was looking for his wife and two sons.
''What's important is for me to find them even if they're dead," said Elmosora, his eyes bloodshot and his face grief-stricken. ''I've not eaten since this thing happened."
The landslide left Guinsaugon, which is on the southern part of Leyte island, looking like a giant patch of newly plowed land. Only a few jumbles of corrugated steel sheeting indicate the town ever existed.
''Our village is gone, everything was buried in mud," Eugene Pilo, a survivor who lost his family, told local media yesterday. ''All the people are gone."
''It sounded like the mountain exploded, and the whole thing crumbled," Dario Libatan, who lost his wife and three children, told DZMM. ''I could not see any house standing anymore."
A helicopter pilot, Leo Dimaala, estimated that half the mountain had collapsed yesterday.
Pat Vendetti, of the Greenpeace environmental action group, said that that although logging is illegal in the Philippines, a combination of poor governance and corruption has hampered enforcement of the law.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies blamed a combination of the weather and the type of trees prevalent in the area.
''The remote coastal area of southern Leyte . . . is heavily forested with coconut trees," the Red Cross said from Geneva. ''They have shallow roots, which can be easily dislodged after heavy rains, causing the land to become unstable."
Southern Leyte province Governor Rosette Lerias said many residents evacuated the area last week because of the threat of landslides or flooding, but had started returning home during increasingly sunny days. Even before the landslide, ''trees were sliding down upright with the mud," Lerias said.
''Help is on the way," President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said in televised remarks. ''It will come from land, sea, and air." The international Red Cross launched an emergency appeal for $1.5 million for relief operations.
The US military dispatched at least two warships and other forces to provide medical assistance and other relief. The United States also is sending money requested by the Philippine government for search and rescue, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said. He did not say how much would be sent.
In 1991, about 6,000 people were killed on Leyte in floods and landslides triggered by a tropical storm. Another 133 people died in floods and mudslides there in 2003.
The waters off Leyte island became the scene of the biggest naval battle in history in 1944, when US General Douglas MacArthur fulfilled his famed vow ''I shall return" and routed Japanese forces occupying the Philippines.