Government says 1,079 people are unaccounted for, as true extent of devastation from powerful storm becomes known.
|More than 60,000 people displaced by tropical storm Washi are sheltering in government buildings [AFP]|
The death toll from killer floods in the Philippines has risen by more than 200, more than a week after the disaster struck, with officials expecting more corpses to be found.
The confirmed toll reached 1,453 on Tuesday, up sharply from 1,236 the previous day as navy and coastguard ships fished more bodies out of the waters off the southern island of Mindanao, the civil defence office said.
The stench of death pervaded the region, a sign that many corpses still remained unrecovered on land, Ana Caneda, the regional civil defence chief, said.
Tropical storm Washi brought heavy rains, overflowing rivers and flash floods to the southern Philippines from December 16 to 18, sweeping away whole villages built on sandbars and riverbanks.
“There are still a lot of areas we have examined that are stinking of dead bodies. We don’t know how many people are buried under that mud,” Caneda said, adding the toll could reach 2,000.
“There are so many bodies being found, floating in the bays. If not for the small islands in the bays, they would be in the Pacific already,” she said.
Recovering the bodies has been hampered by the fatigue of rescue workers who have been labouring non-stop since the storm hit, Caneda said.
“Even the [corpse] sniffing dogs are tired.”
The Office of Civil Defence’s latest tally listed 891 dead in Cagayan de Oro and an additional 451 in nearby Iligan city. The rest came from several other provinces. Most of the dead are unidentified.
Survivors at a sandbar in Cagayan de Oro city, trying to salvage belongings from the mud, instead dug up the bodies of three of their neighbours, the city government said.
More than 376,000 people were displaced by the storm and almost 55,000 are still huddled in crowded makeshift evacuation centres, the disaster council said.