Thursday 23 February 2017

Death toll in Philippines from Typhoon Washi rises to 652 with 900 missing

Bullit Marquez in Iligan, Philippines

Typhoon Washi victims left homeless rest in an evacuation centre in Cagayan de Oro, southern Philippines yesterday
Typhoon Washi victims left homeless rest in an evacuation centre in Cagayan de Oro, southern Philippines yesterday
A father cries as he carries the body of his child, who was among the hundreds killed

The number of people killed in the Philippines by floods triggered by Typhoon Washi has risen to 652.

Soldiers and volunteers were last night still searching for the 900 people reported missing on southern Mindanao island.

Last night as the rains and winds raged people told of their heartbreak after failing to contact their loved ones.

Outside the store where she works, Amor Limbago attempted to contact her parents, but their mobile phones just kept ringing and later went dead.

Ms Limbago (21) rushed home as soon as the flash floods receded and confirmed her worst fear -- her parents and seven other relatives were gone, swept away from their hut by the river.

"I returned and saw that our house was completely gone," a weeping Ms Limbago said. "There was nothing but mud all over and knee-deep floodwaters."

Children

Typhoon Washi blew away yesterday after devastating a wide swath of the mountainous region on Mindanao island, which is unaccustomed to major storms.

It killed at least 652 people and left more than 900 others missing, the Philippine Red Cross said.

Last night there were concerns for at least 50,000 children who have been caught up in the flooding, according to estimates from Save the Children.

The children's charity said it was particularly concerned that youngsters may have been separated from their families, leaving them especially vulnerable.

Anna Lindenfors, Save the Children's country director in the Philippines, said: "We fear that many children were split up from their parents as this disaster unfolded, and our priority is to reach them as soon as possible.

The charity said its teams were providing clean water and essential items to families.

Most of the victims were asleep last Friday night when flash floods cascaded down mountain slopes with logs and uprooted trees, swelling rivers.

The late-season tropical storm turned the worst-hit coastal cities of Cagayan de Oro and nearby Iligan into muddy wastelands.

Most of the dead were children and women, the Red Cross's Gwendolyn Pang said.

The government's Office of Civil Defence placed the number of dead at 652 with 900 missing and 431 others rescued.

Its head, Benito Ramos, said he expected the toll to rise and added that the government count was slower because authorities try to identify each casualty by verifying it with relatives.

Among the items urgently needed are coffins and body bags, said Mr Ramos. "It's overwhelming. We didn't expect this many dead," he said.

Irish Independent

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