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Death toll in Philippine floods climbs to nearly 1,500

By Girlie Linao

MANILA — The death toll from floods in the southern Philippines has climbed to 1,453 as heavy rains triggered fresh floods in provinces on the east coast, the Office of Civil Defense said Tuesday.

The port city of Cagayan de Oro suffered the most deaths at 891, while 461 people were killed in nearby Iligan City from the Dec. 17 floods triggered by Tropical Storm Washi.

The disaster relief agency said floods and landslides also killed 47 people in the southern province of Bukidnon, 39 on the central island of Negros and 15 in other southern provinces.

The agency said it had verified 84 people missing in the disaster and was checking reports of 1,023 others unaccounted for. Authorities said some of the missing could be among the unidentified dead.

Fresh floods forced thousands of people to flee their homes in the south-eastern provinces of Surigao del Norte and Agusan del Sur, the eastern provinces of Leyte and Southern Leyte and nearby Cebu province.

Civil defense chief Benito Ramos said many roads in Surigao and Agusan were closed because the floodwaters were already waist-deep.

“The residents there evacuated immediately,” he said. “We hope there are no casualties because of the pre-emptive evacuation.”

Ramos said nearly 300 residents from Guinsaugon village in Southern Leyte also evacuated late Monday as the torrential rains caused floods and landslides.

In 2006, heavy rains and a minor earthquake triggered a massive landslide in Guinsaugon, burying the hundreds of houses and killing more than 1,100 people.

The Office of Civil Defense said the floods in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan displaced more than 422,000 people this month, most of whom have lost their homes to the deluge.

Authorities were preparing to set up tents and bunkhouses for more than 50,500 people in evacuation centers, most of which are schools that need to be cleaned before classes resume in January.

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