Flood death toll in Philippines hits 497

Updated: 2011-12-18 09:52


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Flood death toll in Philippines hits 497

Damaged vehicles washed away by flash floods brought forth by Typhoon Washi lie in a ditch in Balulang village in Cagayan de Oro, in southern Philippines December 17, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

MANILA/CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines - The death toll from tropical storm Washi (or local name Sendong) in the Philippines rose to 497, with 162 others still missing, the Philippine Red Cross said Sunday.

Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon and his team will leave for Mindanao Island in southern Philippines on Monday to personally assess the aftermath of the flashflood.

In an earlier text message to Reuters, Gwendolyn Pang, secretary-general of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), said the death toll of 436 was expected to rise.

"Our death toll was based on the actual number of bodies that were brought to funeral homes in the two cities that were the hardest hit by the typhoon," Pang said, adding it was difficult to estimate how many were still unaccounted for.

Typhoon Washi, with winds gusting up to 90 kmh (56 mph), barrelled into the resource-rich island of Mindanao late on Friday, bringing heavy rain that also grounded some domestic flights and left wide areas without power.  

Emergency workers, soldiers and police were recovering more bodies - most covered in mud - washed ashore in nearby towns.

Pang said nearly 360 bodies had been found in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan and about 50 in four other southern provinces. The government's official death toll stood only at 131 people and nearly 270 missing.  

Another 21 people drowned on the central island of Negros, the PNRC said.

Hundreds were also unaccounted for, most of them from a coastal village in Iligan. Houses were swept into the sea by floodwaters while people were sleeping inside late on Friday.  

The Philippines social welfare department said about 100,000 people were displaced and brought to nearly three dozen shelters in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro.