Army responds to landslide

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The Salvation Army brings relief after a deadly mudslide on the Philippine island of Leyte.

by Karen Gleason – 

The Salvation Army responded immediately after the landslide of 17 February that devastated the southern Philippine island of Leyte. A mountain collapsed in the village of Guinsaugon, entombing up to 1,800 people in mud. Reports have confirmed 122 people dead and up to 1,000 missing in the village, with numbers expected to rise.

Rescue efforts focused on a school, filled with more than 250 children and staff when it was buried under the wall of mud and rocks. The search continued, although there was no sign of life.

Philippines Territorial Leader Commissioner Robin Dunster notes that while The Salvation Army has no vehicles in that part of the country, making the relief effort difficult, Army officers and volunteers are doing all they can to assist those affected by the tragedy. See accompanying article by Commissioner Dunster.

The result of intense rainfall, the landslide caused a mountainside to collapse, completely burying the farming community of Guinsaugon, Leyte in a 100-acre blanket of mud. With the affected area inaccessible, The Salvation Army sought to establish contact with an Army church in the vicinity, which is very remote.

Assisting in the relief effort are Captain Diosdado Cano and Major Bionore Laplana, who report that 3,650 people are being sheltered in a local school near the disaster area. The Salvation Army is providing emotional and spiritual care and is attempting to purchase food supplies, blankets, sleeping mats and mosquito nets to distribute within the shelter.

Commissioner Robert Saunders shared his knowledge and insights with New Frontier. Saunders, working in retirement as advisory board consultant for the Del Oro Division, served in the Philippines twice. In 1974 he was sent as territorial youth officer and as training officer (principal). While there, he researched the history of the Army in the Philippines, which became the first such published record. In 1997 the Saunders returned to the Philippines as territorial leaders, serving until 2000.

Saunders commented that the area is rural, rugged, tropical and muddy. The region often has mudslides, and The Salvation Army has always responded to them. The people are poor, depending primarily on agriculture, not fishing, for their living. He said, “Recovery will be difficult and long…the people are resilient, though, due to continual tragedies.”

He also noted that The Salvation Army has a work in Leyte. It is very challenging as there is not a strong economic base. Since the people are needy, the services of the Army are significant, and include micro enterprise credit and agricultural assistance.

The Salvation Army has been working in the Philippines since 1937 and has over 10,000 members.

Leyte is among the Philippines’ most historic provinces. In 1944, during World War II, it became world famous as the point of entry for the American forces of liberation, under General Douglas MacArthur. The upper portion of Leyte’s provincial seal commemorates the landing of General MacArthur.

Monetary donations for disaster relief may be made online at
Sources include an International Headquarters’ new release and

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