By Girlie Linao Deutsche Presse-Agentur
MANILA, Philippines — The death toll in devastating floods in the Philippines reached 957 after bodies swept to sea were retrieved, the Office of Civil Defense said Tuesday.
The southern city of Cagayan de Oro suffered the most deaths, with 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.
Floods and landslides in nearby southern and central provinces killed at least 99 people, the OCD said.
President Benigno Aquino III flew to Cagayan de Oro and Iligan on Tuesday to visit survivors and get a briefing on the devastation left by the floods, which were triggered by Tropical Storm Washi.
Aquino was criticized for not visiting earlier and for attending the Christmas party of the presidential security guards on Sunday.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Aquino would have visited sooner 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,” Lacierda said.
On Monday, authorities began mass burials in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro, where coffins had run out and funeral parlors were overwhelmed with the mounting death toll. The stench of decay began to envelop the disaster zones.
The Philippine Navy said Tuesday it would deliver 500 coffins donated by officials in the northern province of Pampanga, while the Health Department sent hundreds of body bags.
The government and relief agencies also sent bottled water, food and medicines to help more than 330,000 people displaced by the floods, the OCD said.
Nearly 43,000 of the displaced population are staying in poorly equipped, cramped evacuation centers. Some have been forced to beg for food on the streets.
Washi struck into the southern Philippines on Friday, dumping more than seven inches of rain over 24 hours, causing rivers to overflow. Water from denuded mountains acascaded down to the cities.
The floods hit as people 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.
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