Flood victims' bodies float at sea

2011-12-22 14:38
Iligan - The United Nations on Thursday appealed for aid for victims of floods that killed more than a thousand people in the Philippines, likening the devastation to that of a tsunami.

UN country co-ordinator Soe Nyunt-U appealed to foreign governments and aid agencies to provide $28.6m in funds to provide clean water, food and emergency shelter to about half a million people affected by the disaster.

"It was as if the cities were hit by an inland tsunami," he said, recounting the horror and devastation of the flash floods unleashed by tropical storm Washi on the southern ports of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro.

Soe, who recently visited the disaster area, added: "The UN and humanitarian partners are working very hard to support government-led efforts. The needs however are overwhelming."

The UN refugee agency UNHCR said on Thursday it airlifted from Dubai tarpaulin, blankets, jerry cans, and cooking items for 10 000 people from the flood zones, who needed emergency shelter.

‘No survivors, just bodies’

The bodies of the victims still litter the seas off the major southern island of Mindanao, officials said on Thursday as fears mounted of disease outbreaks among survivors.

The official death toll from the weekend disaster, which swept away shanty towns built near major rivers, has exceeded 1 000 but some authorities said hundreds more people could be missing and may never be found.

Benito Ramos, the civil defence chief, told AFP that eight navy and coastguard ships are looking for corpses floating among debris up to 100km offshore.

"By this time, there will be no survivors, just dead bodies," he said.

Rolando Balili clutched on to driftwood for more than 24 hours after he, his wife, six other family members and their neighbours were swept 35km out to sea.

"I heard voices in the sea of so many people crying for help, but there was nothing I could do except cling to my log," said the 29-year-old, whose arm and leg were both fractured by debris.

Toll put at 1 010

He and his wife were rescued by fishermen on Sunday, but the bodies of his two sisters and 2-year-old daughter were among those retrieved from the waters, while his 5-year-old son and both parents remain missing.

Bruised, sun-burnt and in crutches, Balili - who washes cars for a living - spoke to AFP on Thursday while standing in a long queue seeking assistance from the civil defence office in Cagayan de Oro city.

Ramos put the death toll at 1 010 while his agency, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, put the number of missing at 51.

But Lawrence Cruz, mayor of the hard-hit port of Iligan, said that in his city alone 283 people had been confirmed dead while more than 400 had been reported missing.

"We could only assume they are dead already," Cruz said. "There is so much mud that has to be cleared up and maybe the missing are buried."

Philippine Red Cross chief Gwendolyn Pang said that at least 900 bodies had been recovered and that some 400 people have been reported missing.

309 000 people displaced

However, she said the exact toll may never be known as some of those reported missing may be among the dead, and there could be many more whose disappearances were never reported.

A navy vessel recovered 11 badly decomposed bodies off the coastal town of Salay on Wednesday, navy spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Omar Tonsay told AFP.

"You have to ram logs and risk holing your hull or entangling your propellers," Tonsay said, describing the dangers search and rescue teams face from floating debris themselves.

Ramos said the maritime search could continue for two more weeks, but warned that many bodies may have sunk underwater and would never be found.

The main priority was finding permanent shelter for the 309 000 people displaced by the floods, particularly more than 43 000 housed in cramped evacuation centres, he said.

Health officials have warned of the risk of epidemics breaking out at the camps, which remain without proper water supply and sanitation.

Many of the survivors are forbidden from returning home to flood-prone areas.
Read more on:    philippines  |  floods

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.