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Crews struggle to find school hidden by mud in Philippines

Published Feb. 22, 2006

Uncertain if they were even digging in the right place, emergency crews tried to find a mud-swamped elementary school today as fears grew that time may have run out for rescuing any more survivors of a huge landslide.

"We have not found any structure to indicate the location of the school," said Joel Son, in charge of a group of miners working at the site. "It's all mud."

Hopes for a miracle have focused on the school largely because of unconfirmed reports that survivors there sent mobile phone text messages to relatives shortly after the landslide hit Friday.

Tuesday was another frustrating day, with no one found alive since just hours after a mountainside collapsed on the farming village of Guinsaugon on Leyte island.

The official death toll rose to 107, but authorities fear it could surpass 1,000.

Still no word on miners trapped in Mexico

SAN JUAN DE SABINAS, Mexico - Rescue workers searching for 65 coal miners trapped beneath the desert scrub of northern Mexico made excruciatingly slow progress Tuesday, working with picks and shovels as anguished relatives threatened to rush past soldiers guarding the pit.

More than two days after a gas explosion filled tunnels with fallen rock, wood and metal, rescuers have found no sign of the workers - either dead or alive - in the Pasta de Conchos mine, about 85 miles southwest of Eagle Pass, Texas.

Crews wearing gas masks and oxygen tanks got through one wall of debris, only to encounter another about 1,800 feet inside the tunnel early Tuesday. At least two conveyer belt operators may be just beyond the wall, but most of the other miners were thought to be as far as one to 3 miles from the mine's entrance.

Russia sends Venezuela helicopters in arms deal

CARACAS, Venezuela - Three Russian-made transport helicopters arrived in Venezuela on Tuesday as part of a broader arms deal between the two nations, Venezuela's defense minister said.

Defense Minister Orlando Maniglia said the three helicopters were the first of 15 to be delivered under two contracts worth $201-million signed last year.

Russia and Venezuela also signed a contract in May for 100,000 Russian-made Kalashnikov rifles, a deal that drew criticism from the U.S. government over concerns that the guns could fall into the hands of leftist rebels in neighboring Colombia or other groups.

Washington sees Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as a destabilizing force in Latin America, and U.S. officials have said the arms purchase is unnecessary.

Chavez has said Venezuela needs assault rifles to defend itself against a possible U.S. invasion. Washington has denied Chavez's accusations of a plan to overthrow him.

Russia, Iran fail to reach enrichment agreement

MOSCOW - A second day of negotiations between Iran and Russia ended on Tuesday without evident progress, amid signs of increasing frustration over the unsuccessful efforts to break a diplomatic impasse over Iran's nuclear programs.

After a brief resumption of talks in the morning at the Foreign Ministry, Iran's negotiators left Moscow, having refused to consider a new moratorium on nuclear research, which Russia has demanded in an exchange for a joint venture to enrich Iran's uranium on Russian soil, according to diplomats and news accounts.

Russia's foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, refused to characterize the progress of the talks, which began in the Kremlin on Monday, saying it was "premature to use terms such as failure or success."

Iran's chief negotiator in the latest round of negotiations, Ali Hosseinitash, told the IRNA news agency that the talks were "constructive", but lacked details.

Sergei V. Kiriyenko, the head of Russia's atomic energy agency, is scheduled to visit Iran on Thursday and, in remarks to Russian news agencies, said talks would continue then.