Filipino miners burrowed beneath the ruins of a hotel Saturday in hope of rescuing people who may be alive five days after a massive earthquake struck killing at least 767 people.
But rescue efforts were delayed after small aftershocks rattled Baguio and Manila, 130 miles to the south. The tremors cracked the walls of the Baguio cathedral.The official death toll from Monday's quake rose to 767 as more bodies were discovered Saturday. But officials said the toll may approach 1,000 because hundreds are feared dead in an industrial park and a remote farming area in Nueva Vizcaya province.
Also Saturday, Communist rebels declared a unilateral cease-fire in Manila and the quake-ravaged north. Right-wing military dissidents offered to declare a cease-fire if the government suspended efforts to capture them.
Many leaders of the dissident movement are graduates of the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio, one of the towns hardest hit by the quake.
Miner Quilino Bagimbin said he crawled through a tunnel beneath the wrecked Hyatt Hotel in Baguio and knocked four times against debris blocking access to the basement gymnasium, where about 10 people are believed trapped.
Bagimbin said he heard four distinctive knocks in response. About 40 people remain unaccounted for at the Hyatt.
Another miner, John Dilla, said workers have been hearing knocks since Friday night but they were growing fainter.
Recovery efforts were temporarily suspended Saturday following the aftershocks. The miners resumed their desperate bid to reach suvivors later in the day after strengthening the tunnel.
"We are knocking every so often to let whoever is inside know that somebody is nearby," said Dave Kemp, a British volunteer from Norfolk, England. "That could be the edge to keep survivors alive longer."
Jose de Jesus, presidential relief coordinator for Baguio, said 135 people were believed trapped inside eight factories in the Baguio Export Processing Zone but all are believed dead.