Hundreds still missing as Philippines storm death toll reaches 1,100

12/24/2011 17:21

WireUpdate:  MANILA, PHILIPPINES (BNO NEWS) -- The death toll after Tropical Storm Sendong (Washi) hit the southeastern Philippines last week has risen to at least 1,100, emergency officials confirmed on Saturday. Hundreds more remain missing.

Sendong made landfall over the northeastern region of Mindanao island on December 16, causing heavy rains, flash floods and landslides. Most of the fatalities were reported in the Northern Mindanao Region, which rarely experiences tropical cyclones, although dozens were also killed in the nearby Visayas island group.

Benito Ramos, the Executive Director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), said 1,100 people have been confirmed to have been killed as of Saturday morning. He said at least 1,079 people have been reported missing, but a large number of them are likely to be among the 642 unidentified victims.

The vast majority of bodies were found in Cagayan de Oro, the capital city of Misamis Oriental province, where 674 fatalities were reported. More than 330 people were also killed throughout the province of Lanao del Norte, including many in Iligan City. Overall, at least 1,979 people have been reported injured.

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has meanwhile issued a preliminary appeal for 122.7 million Philippine peso ($2.8 million) through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) for 25,000 people who have been severely affected by the disaster.

Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon said the devastation in the area is unprecedented. "I've gone through many disasters but this one is the worst as some of the survivors have lost so many family members," he said. "Some have lost as many as 30 relatives."

The Red Cross emergency relief operation is prioritizing the delivery of immediate life-saving aid to the worst affected families. This includes delivering food, blankets, sleeping mats, Jerrycans and shelter assistance to families in the worst affected areas of Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro.

"The appeal will complement the rapid response already undertaken by the Philippine Red Cross," the organization said in a statement. "More than 600 volunteers and staff have been active since the storm hit. Teams have been involved in search and rescue, as well as supporting people in evacuation centers by providing hot meals, distributing food packs and setting up first aid posts. The Red Cross has also dispatched emergency supplies of food and non-food items for 5,000 families from Manila and Davao to the affected area."

Senior Inspector Elmer Decena of the Northern Mindanao Regional Public Safety Battalion previously said authorities had to use rubber boats to rescue residents starting at 2 a.m. local time on December 17, when the floods were at their worst. The floods were worsened by high tides.

According to authorities, people were warned about the risk of flash floods, especially in areas near rivers, but many refused to leave their homes and were sleeping when the disaster struck. The military has been assisting in search-and-rescue efforts and has flown helicopters to locate missing and trapped victims.

According to the NDRRMC, at least 695,195 people have been affected by the storm, although the actual number is likely to be higher. The agency said 69,287 people were inside the 62 evacuation centers as of Saturday morning, while 258,539 others are being assisted outside evacuation centers.

An initial damage assessment showed at least 37,889 houses were damaged as a result of the storm, including 10,977 houses which were totally destroyed or damaged so badly they are uninhabitable. Many schools and businesses have also been damaged while large areas remain without power.

Sendong, which is internationally known as 'Washi', was part of the 2011 Pacific typhoon season which runs throughout 2011, with most tropical cyclones forming between May and November. The storm has since dissipated after leaving the Philippines.

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