By Girlie Linao
MANILA — At least 145 people were killed and 260 missing in floods and landslides triggered by a tropical storm in the southern Philippines, disaster relief and military officials said Saturday.
Tropical Storm Washi slammed into the southern region of Mindanao on Friday, bringing heavy rains that caused many rivers to overflow. The floods were worsened by the high tide, local officials said.
Colonel Leopoldo Galon, a regional military spokesman, said armed forces rescuers have retrieved 97 bodies in the city of Cagayan de Oro.
At least 40 more drowned in the flashfloods in Iligan City, while five died in a landslide in Monkayo town in Compostella Valley province, the Office of Civil Defence (OCD) said.
Three people drowned in Polanco town in Zamboanga del Norte province, it added.
Benito Ramos, OCD administrator, said rescue teams, supported by military helicopters, have been dispatched to search for the 260 missing people in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities.
More than 400 residents have been rescued in the two cities, he added.
Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Cruz said the flooding was the worst to hit the municipality in years.
“We were all surprised,” he told a local television station. “The people were already sleeping when the flashfloods came.”
Cruz said the city government has cancelled a Christmas party scheduled for Tuesday so that funds allocated for the event would be used instead for relief operations.
In Cagayan de Oro City, the centre of the storm, more than 20,000 people were displaced by the floods and staying in evacuation centres, according to Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman.
The floods, which reached one-meter deep in some areas, have subsided in Cagayan de Oro, allowing authorities to speed up relief operations, she added.
President Benigno Aquino III expressed alarm over the high death toll and directed officials to extend all assistance to the affected areas.
©2011 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany)