Death toll in devastating floods in Philippines hits 957
The death toll in devastating floods in the Philippines has reached 957 after bodies swept to sea were retrieved, the Office of Civil Defence said Tuesday, dpa reported.
The southern city of Cagayan de Oro suffered the most deaths at 579, while 279 were killed in the nearby city of Iligan, said OCD administrator Benito Ramos.
"We've lost count of the missing," he said.
Washi also caused floods and landslides in nearby southern and central provinces, killing at least 99 people, Office of Civil Defence (OCD) said.
President Benigno Aquino III flew to Cagayan de Oro and Iligan on Tuesday to visit the victims and get a briefing on the devastation left by the floods, which were triggered by Tropical Storm Washi.
The visit came after Aquino was criticized for not visiting earlier and for attending the Christmas party of the presidential security guards on Sunday as thousands struggled with Washi's onslaught.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Aquino would have visited earlier had it not been for the bad weather.
"The president is very much aware of what was going on and he made sure that all relief efforts and all necessary efforts insofar as search and rescue are given to the people affected," he said.
Authorities began on Monday to hold mass burials for the dead in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro, where coffins had run out and funeral parlours were overwhelmed with the mounting death toll. The stench of decay also began to envelop the disaster zones.
The Philippine Navy said Tuesday it would be transporting 500 coffins donated by officials in the northern province of Pampanga, while the Health Department has dispatched hundreds of body bags.
The government and relief agencies also rushed bottled water, food and medicines to help more than 330,000 displaced by the floods, the OCD said.
Nearly 43,000 of the displaced population are staying in cramped evacuation centres that lack facilities, while some have been forced to beg for food on the streets.
Washi slammed into the southern Philippines on Friday, dumping more than one month's worth of rains in less than 12 hours that caused rivers to overflow. Water from denuded mountains also cascaded down to the cities.
The rampaging floods hit as resident slept, sweeping away houses, vehicles and trees. Entire villages were turned into a wasteland of thick mud, logs, mangled steel and iron sheeting, and other debris.