The death toll from a devastating late-season storm in the southern Philippines rose Sunday to more than 700 after massive floods washed away entire villages, drowned residents who had been sleeping and swept victims out to sea, authorities said.
Hundreds remained missing as beleaguered rescue workers patrolled the Philippine Sea off Mindanao Island in search of bodies. Officials attributed the rising toll from Typhoon Washi to the unlucky confluence of such factors as the absence of a flood warning, high tide, darkness and a false sense of security, informs Los Angeles Times.
The national disaster agency said 533 died and 309 remain missing, while the local Red Cross put the toll at 652 killed and more than 800 missing. Casualties from the flashfloods exceeded the more than 450 people killed in 2009 when a tropical storm dumped heavy rains on the main Luzon island, inundating nearly the entire capital Manila.
Typhoon Washi slammed ashore in the Mindanao region of the Philippines while residents slept at the weekend, sending torrents of water and mud through riverside villages and sweeping houses out to sea. In the aftermath, radio stations and local governments have been deluged by calls and appeals from survivors asking for help to bury the dead or find missing relatives, reports Reuters India.
"There are areas that rescuers have not been able to penetrate," Ms. Pang said late Sunday in a telephone interview. "We expect the number of dead to increase, but this is still a search-and-rescue effort. We are finding people alive."
Typhoons and tropical storms are common in the Philippines, which gets about 20 major storms a year, but they do not often slam into Mindanao the way this storm did, destroying thousands of houses and washing out roads and bridges. Benito Ramos, a civil defense official, said during a news briefing in Manila that the storm had followed an unusual path, and local officials confirmed his assessment, according to New York Times.
About 35,000 people are sheltering in evacuation centres, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said. The government says survivors are in desperate need of fresh water, shelter and medicine.
China and the US are among international donors offering assistance. The flash floods struck in the early hours of Saturday as a passing tropical storm coincided with high tides. As rivers burst their banks, many were trapped in their homes while in other areas entire villages are reported to have been swept away, says BBC News.