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26 December 2011

Death toll mounts from storm in Philippines as bodies wash ashore

Image: A boy holds a placard on a street in Cagayan de Oro on December 24, 2011.

(CNN) -- The death toll from the tropical storm that lashed the southern Philippines just over a week ago has topped 1,200, the government said Monday, as the bodies of people swept out to sea by flash floods wash ashore.

The number of dead has increased to 1,249 from 1,100 over the weekend, said Major Reynaldo Balido, the military assistant for operations at the Office of Civil Defense.
The bodies have been washed up on nearby beaches and islands, Balido said by telephone from the island of Mindanao, the scene of the worst devastation.

The authorities have also enlisted the help of local fishermen to help search for the scores of people who remain missing, he said, adding that the fisherman volunteered, since many of them had lost friends and relatives in the disaster.

The unusually heavy rains of Tropical Storm Washi, which churned across the southern Philippines between December 16 and 18, set off landslides and flash floods that swept away whole villages.

"I've gone through many disasters but this one is the worst as some of the survivors have lost so many family members," said Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross.

"Some have lost as many as 30 relatives," he said in comments posted recently on the organization's website.

The number of people injured as a result of the storm has more than doubled to 4,594 from 1,979 at the weekend, the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said in a statement on its website, putting more pressure on already stretched relief agencies.

The United Nations said last week that the storm has created "huge" humanitarian needs in the region. It has made an appeal to raise $28 million to deal with the immediate problems, with tens of thousands of people displaced in and around the port cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro.

Many people are lacking food, shelter and clean drinking water, the United Nations said.
The storm, known locally as Sendong, has affected nearly 700,000 people in the region, about 370,000 of whom are being helped at evacuation centers, the disaster council said Monday.

An estimated 1,079 people remain missing in the chaotic aftermath of the storm, according to the council. It said that total is subject to further verification.

President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines has declared a state of national calamity following the storm.

- CNN