Number of missing soars in Philippines floods

Government says 1,079 people are unaccounted for, as true extent of devastation from powerful storm becomes known.

    More than 1,000 people are still missing in the southern Philippines, nearly a week after a powerful storm triggered widespread flooding that left more than 1,000 others dead.

    Government officials on Friday placed the death toll from the aftermath of tropical storm Washi at 1,080, with 1,079 people reported as missing - a major increase from the previous missing toll of 51.

    The new figure includes city migrant workers whose rural relatives did not immediately realise they were missing, civil defence official Ana Caneda told the AFP news agency.

    "In the long term we need to help people who have lost homes, and those who lived in unsafe homes, which have been washed away"

    - Matthew Cochrane, Red Cross

    "There are whole families who have gone missing or who died. No one inquired about them before," Caneda said.

    She said entire families had been wiped out in the hard-hit southern ports of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan on Mindanao island, and because they had no  relatives left in the cities, there was no one to report their disappearance to authorities.

    The government's civil defence agency, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and  Management Council, has listed 674 dead and 626 missing in Cagayan de Oro, along  with 312 dead and 406 missing in Iligan.

    Caneda, who is based in Cagayan de Oro, conceded those listed as missing could be among the unidentified bodies that are piling up at local mortuaries.

    Entire neighbourhoods in Cagayan de Oro, a city of half a million people,  and nearby Iligan, a port of 100,000 people, were swept away or were flattened.

    'Island tsunami'

    The United Nations humanitarian organiser has compared the destruction in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan to a tsunami, as entire areas have been completely devastated.

    "It was as if the cities [Iligan and Cagayan de Oro] were hit by an inland tsunami," Soe Nyunt-U told reporters in the capital, Manila, on Thursday. "Entire areas were completely flattened. Only a few sturdy buildings remain standing, and these had sustained a lot of damage.''

    The United Nations is seeking $28.6m from donors to help provide water and sanitation to storm victims.

    "In the long term we need to help people who have lost homes, and those who lived in unsafe homes, which have been washed away," Matthew Cochrane of the Red Cross told Al Jazeera.

    "This is a long term problem and urgent help is needed," he said.

    The Red Cross has also made an appeal for $2.8m to help flood victims in the country.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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