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Flash Floods Leave At Least 1,000 People Dead in Philippines

Death toll from Philippines storm rises above 1,000

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) -- The death toll in the Philippines from a tropical storm that struck the south of the country over the weekend has risen above 1,000, a government official said Wednesday.

The number of dead has increased to 1,002, said Benito Ramos, head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The grim announcement comes a day after President Benigno Aquino declared a state of national calamity after visiting areas on the island of Mindanao that were devastated by Tropical Storm Washi.

The storm, known locally as Sendong, has left tens of thousands of people homeless as aid agencies struggle to deal with a growing humanitarian crisis.

The Red Cross has said that hundreds of people remain unaccounted for after entire villages were swept away.

The worst of the destruction took place in the port cities Iligan and Cagayan de Oro, which do not usually experience storms as intense as Washi.

http://edition.cnn.com/2011/12/21/world/asia/philippines-storm-toll/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

Philippines searches for hundreds after typhoon kills 650

 

 

Reuters, Dec. 19, 2011

(Reuters) - Rescuers searched for more than 800 people missing in the southern Philippines on Sunday after flash floods and landslides swept houses into rivers and out to sea, killing more than 650 people in areas ill-prepared to cope with storms.

Cagayan de Oro and nearby Iligan cities on Mindanao island were worst hit when Typhoon Washi slammed ashore while people slept late on Friday and early Saturday, sending torrents of water and mud through villages and stripping mountainsides bare.

The Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) said 652 people were killed in eight provinces in the southern Mindanao region, with more than 800 missing.

"Our office was swamped with hundreds of requests to help find their missing parents, children and relatives," Gwendolyn Pang, secretary-general of the PNRC, told reporters. "We're helping coordinate the search with local government, army, police and even other aid agencies."

Floods washed away entire houses with families inside in dozens of coastal villages in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.

"This is the first time this has happened in our city," Vicente Emano, mayor of Cagayan de Oro, said in a radio interview. He said officials in the area did not receive adequate warning before the typhoon struck.

The state disaster agency said adequate warnings had been given to officials and residents three days before the typhoon made landfall on Friday.

BODIES PILED UP; SOLDIERS BUILD COFFINS

Disaster and health officials were struggling to deal with the scores of bodies that have been recovered. Some were stacked one on top of each other in under-staffed mortuaries that were unable to cope with the numbers of dead.

"I saw for myself bloated bodies of women and children, not less than 100," Vice President Jejomar Binay told Philippines radio as he toured the worst hit areas in Cagayan de Oro.

Binay distributed food packs and ordered the relocation of families living near waterways and other hazards.

Brigadier General Roland Amarille, head of an army task force in Iligan, said soldiers had been mobilized to recover bodies and build coffins.

"We need body bags and lime to deal with too many cadavers," Amarille said, fearing an outbreak of disease.

"Local mortuaries are no longer accepting cadavers and they are even asking people to bury the dead at once because there are too many bodies even in hallways," he said.

Most of the fatalities were from a slum area on an island sandwiched by two rivers in Iligan. "About 70 percent of the houses on the island were washed into the sea," Amarille said.

Mindanao island, the southernmost in the Philippines, is a mineral-rich region that also produces rice and corn but is not normally in the path of an average 20 typhoons that hit the Southeast Asian country each year.

"This poses challenges to us ... We need to educate people with this kind of change in climate," Pang said. "The volume of rainfall for one month fell in just one day."

RESCUED BY CARGO SHIP

Typhoons normally strike the central Visayas region and the south and east of Luzon, the main island in the north.

Carmelita Pulosan, 42, said she and eight family members and neighbors survived by sitting on top of the tin roof of their house as it drifted miles into the open sea after floodwater swept through their village.

They were rescued by a cargo ship.

"There was a deafening sound followed by a rush of water. We found ourselves in the river and the current took us out to the sea," Pulosan, from Cagayan de Oro, told Reuters.

"The current was very strong. God is really good to us. He saved my family," she said. Only one 3-storey building was left standing in their village, Pulosan said.

Red Cross official Pang said officials and residents did not expect such a huge volume of water cascading down mountains into river systems because the area was not in the typhoon belt.

She said Cagayan de Oro last experienced floods in 2009 but there was only minimal damage and no deaths.

Many people found their homes destroyed after returning to shattered villages, Pang said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States, a major ally of the Philippines, was ready to help. The Chinese embassy would donate $10,000 to help in the relief efforts, an embassy official said.

Washi, downgraded to a tropical storm with gusts of up to 80 km per hour (50 miles per hour), was hovering about 60 km (40 miles) west of the southwestern city of Puerto Princesa and was expected to move out of Philippine waters late on Sunday.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/18/us-philippines-weather-idUSTRE7BG09G20111218?feedType=RSS&feedName=environmentNews&rpc=76

 

Flash floods kill more than 400 in Philippines

 

 

The Associated Press, Dec. 17, 2011

 MANILA, Phillipines — Flash floods devastated a southern Philippines region unaccustomed to serious storms, killing
more than 400 people while they slept, rousting hundreds of others to their rooftops and turning two coastal cities into muddy, debris-filled waterways that were strewn Saturday with overturned vehicles and toppled trees.

The floods dropped 6 months worth of rain in 12 hours.
 
Most of the victims were asleep Friday night when raging floodwaters cascaded from the mountains after 12 hours of rain from a late-season tropical storm in the southern Mindanao region. The region is unaccustomed to the typhoons that are common elsewhere in the nation of islands.

Ayi Hernandez, a former congressman, said he and his family were resting in their home in Cagayan de Oro late Friday when they heard a loud "swooshing sound" and water quickly rose ankle-deep inside. He decided to evacuate to a neighbor's two-story house.

"It was a good thing, because in less than an hour the water rose to about 11 feet (3.3 meters)," filling his home up to the ceiling, he said.

At least 436 were dead, based on a body count in funeral parlors, Philippine Red Cross Secretary General Gwen Pang told The Associated Press. She said that 215 died in Cagayan de Oro — a city of more than 500,000 — and 144 in nearby Iligan, with more than 300,000 residents. The rest died in several other southern and central provinces, she said.

Many of the bodies were unclaimed after nearly 24 hours, suggesting that entire families had died, Pang said.

The number of missing was unclear Saturday night. Before the latest Red Cross figures, military spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang said about 250 people were still unaccounted for in Iligan.

The swollen river sent floodwaters gushing through neighborhoods that do not usually experience flooding. A man floated in an inner tube in muddy water littered with plastic buckets, pieces of wood and other debris. Ten people in one home stood on a sloping roof, waiting for rescuers even as water still flooded the lower floors.

Local television footage showed muddy water rushing in the streets, sweeping away all sorts of debris. Thick layers of mud coated streets where the waters had subsided. One car was thrown over a concrete fence and others were crushed and piled in a flooded canal.

Benito Ramos, chief of the government's Civil Defense Office, attributed the high casualties in Mindanao "partly to the complacency of people because they are not in the usual path of storms" despite four days of warnings by officials that one was approaching.

Thousands of soldiers backed up by hundreds of local police, reservists, coast guard officers and civilian volunteers were mobilized for rescue efforts, but they were hampered by the flooded-out roads and lack of electricity.

Many roads were cut off and there was no electricity, hampering relief efforts.

The missing included prominent Filipino radio broadcaster Enie Alsonado, who was swept away while trying to save his neighbors, Iligan Mayor Lawrence Cruz said.

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro said that about 20,000 residents of the city had been affected and that evacuees were packed in temporary shelters.

Authorities recovered bodies from the mud after the water subsided. Parts of concrete walls and roofs, toppled vehicles and other debris littered the streets.

Rescuers in boats rushed offshore to save people swept out to sea. In Misamis Oriental province, 60 people were plucked from the ocean off El Salvador city, about six miles (10 kilometers) northwest of Cagayan de Oro, said disaster official Teddy Sabuga-a.
About 120 more were rescued off Opol township, closer to the city, he added.

Cruz said the Philippine coast guard and other rescuers were scouring the waters off Iligan for survivors or bodies that may have been swept away to sea.

Tropical Storm Washi dumped on Mindanao more than a month of average rains in just 12 hours.

It quickly cut across the region overnight and headed for Palawan province southwest of Manila on Saturday night.

Forecaster Leny Ruiz said that the records show that storms that follow Washi's track come only once in about 12 years.

Lucilo Bayron, vice mayor of Puerto Princesa in Palawan, said he already mobilized emergency crews but local officials have not ordered an evacuation yet because the weather was still fine.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement that the Obama administration offered "deepest condolences" for the devastation in the southern Philippines.

"The U.S. government stands ready to assist Philippine authorities as they respond to this tragedy," the statement said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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