Philippines storm toll crosses 200

Philippines storm toll crosses 200

Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said the government was focussing on providing relief to nearly 500,000 people affected by tropical storm Ketsana. "Right now, we will concentrate really on providing food and other necessities," he said.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council reported that 100 people had been confirmed killed in floods, landslides and accidents caused by Ketsana. But a tally of casualties reported by local officials, rescuers and police showed the death toll has already reached at least 212. The fatalities included 75 from metropolitan Manila, 85 from nearby Rizal province, 24 from the northern province of Bulacan and 12 from the province of Pampanga.

Teodoro said the official death toll was still expected to rise as reports trickling in from the affected areas were verified. Anthony Golez, a spokesman for the Disaster Coordinating Council, said more than 8,000 people had been rescued from their inundated homes since floods submerged a large portion of the capital on Saturday.

But Golez admitted that more people could be waiting for help as rescue operations were being hampered by strong currents in the flooded villages. "We don't have the numbers, but what we can tell everybody is that help is on the way already," he said.

Golez said the national and local governments were overwhelmed by the massive destruction. "We are used to helping one city, one or two provinces, but now, they are following one after another," he said. "Our assets and people are spread too thinly."

Amid continuing appeals for help from affected residents, some of whom have become angry, officials called for patience. "We feel their anger and pain, but it is physically impossible to reach each and every one with the conditions that we face," Teodoro said. "The challenge now is to get food to everyone."

The council said it has launched a rapid assessment to determine the most urgent needs of the flood victims and whether the government needs to seek more international aid. Various United Nations agencies, the US, Japan and China have already provided emergency assistance to the victims.

More than 110,000 people were in evacuation centres after Ketsana caused the heaviest rainfall in Manila in more than 40 years, turning major highways into raging muddy rivers. Hundreds of vehicles were submerged and overturned by the floods while debris littered the streets.

Damage to property and agriculture was estimated at 108.92 million pesos ($2.32 million), according to the council. The weather bureau said Ketsana has left the Philippines and was on its way to Vietnam but warned that two more tropical depressions were threatening to affect the country in the next two or three days.

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