21 December 2011

'Sendong' casualties surpass 'Ondoy's' 747


National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Executive Director Benito Ramos said the death toll from tropical storm “Sendong,” one of the worst to hit the country, breached the 1,000 mark on Tuesday.
The death toll has already surpassed the 747 deaths during the onslaught of “Ondoy” in 2009.
The toll rose sharply as the bodies of people who were swept out to sea were recovered.
“They were underwater for the first three days but now, in their state of decomposition, they are bloated and floating to the surface,” said Ramos.
A British national was among those killed by the storm, Britain’s Foreign Office said.
Ramos said they have lost count of the missing but officers involved in retrieval operations said more than 900 people remained unaccounted for three days after “Sendong” washed away villages in southern Philippines.
The NDRRMC, in its 6 a.m. bulletin, also said the number of injured was pegged at 1,582, while the number of affected population from 260 villages in 30 towns and eight cities in 13 provinces is now 63,079 families or 338,415 people.
Of the total number of affected population, 9,743 families or 42,733 people are now being served in 62 evacuation centers.
According to the NDRRMC, “Sendong’s” wrath was felt in Regions 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, Caraga, and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
As stated in the NDRRMC report, 579 were confirmed dead in Cagayan de Oro City and 279 in Iligan City. However, Brig. Gen. Roland Amarille, deputy commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division (1ID), said 283 bodies have been recovered in Iligan City as of Tuesday Tuesday afternoon, while Maj. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, 4th Infantry Division (4ID) spokesman, said they have recovered 616 bodies in Cagayan de Oro as of 2 p.m.
In Bukidnon, the NDRRMC placed the confirmed number of fatalities at 47; Negros Oriental, 38; Cebu, one; Zamboanga del Norte, three; Compostela Valley, five; Surigao del Sur, one; and Lanao del Sur, four.
Ramos said they have lost count of the missing, saying “puwedeng umabot ng 1,000 ang patay.”
But Osias said 555 people remain missing in Cagayan de Oro City, while Amarille said 406 are still unaccounted for in Iligam City.
According to Ramos, some of the affected residents may be spending their Christmas and New Year inside evacuation centers.
“Pagdating ng New Year nandiyan pa rin sila sa evacuation centers, malungkot,” said Ramos.
Illegal logging blamed
The NDRRMC official further blamed illegal logging, mining, and silted rivers for the disaster that hit Northern Luzon eight days before Christmas.
Armed Forces officials said they are now shifting to relief and rehabilitation efforts, but stressed search and retrieval for the missing continues.
Bodies everywhere
With bodies lying everywhere, there was controversy over Cagayan de Oro authorities’ decision to bring at least 20 unclaimed cadavers to a nearby landfill for temporary storage.
Pictures of the bodies, kept under a tent just a few metres (yards) away from the dump where scavengers picked through piles of garbage for items to salvage, caused outrage as they circulated on social networking sites.
“Looking for your mother, father, wife, husband, daughter, son, brother, sister who have been missing since Saturday’s flash floods? Go to the city’s dumpsite,” Mindanews, a Mindanao-based news outfit, said on its website.
“That’s where they dumped your loved ones for you to identify and claim.”
Christian Caballes, the chief medical-legal officer of Cagayan de Oro, said a government team was collecting fingerprints and DNA samples from the victims’ bodies which are to be interred in mass graves elsewhere.
“This is just temporary,” Caballes told AFP.
The disaster area, located about 800 kilometers from Manila, is normally bypassed by typhoons that ravage other parts of the far-flung Philippine archipelago every year.
The NDRRMC said more than 284,000 people have been displaced by the storm with over 42,000 huddled in crowded, makeshift government evacuation centers.
Authorities likened the impact of tropical storm “Sendong” to “Ondoy,” one of the country’s most devastating storms which dumped huge amounts of rain on Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
The devastation wrought by “Sendong” has displaced 27,000 workers in Regions 6,7,9, 10, Caraga, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the Department of Labor and Employment said.
The Philippine Army said soldiers all over the archipelago are willing to voluntarily donate one day of their subsistence allowance to the flood victims in Mindanao.
Army Chief Maj. Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista said the Army heeds to the earlier call of Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Jessie Dellosa to donate one day of their meal subsistence allowance to the victims of “Sendong.”
Major Harold M. Cabunoc, Army spokesman, said senior officers in the Army headquarters have set the example by leading the effort of generating funds and relief goods.
As this developed, the Department of Health (DoH) released P2 million on Tuesday to the Center for Health Development (CHD) 10, the regional DoH office in Northern Mindanao for the procurement of additional medicines and medical supplies for “Sendong” victims.
Aside from the monetary assistance, Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona also handed out boxes of medicines, medical supplies, tents, and 648 cadaver bags worth P1.4 million to the officers of CHD 10.
Meanwhile, concerned individuals supporting an environmental group proposed on Tuesday the cancellation of costly firework displays to celebrate Christmas and New Year to help raise funds for the victims of “Sendong.”
In a joint statement, former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez Jr., and EcoWaste Coalition’s Iwas PapuToxic campaigner Aileen Lucero recommended the cancellation of pricey firework displays to celebrate Christmas and the New Year, as the death toll from the tropical storm sharply rose to more than 900 as more bodies were recovered by rescuers.
“I appeal to the sense of compassion of those planning to put up firework shows to drop your plans and contribute the unspent funds to help the Sendong flood victims,” Iñiguez said, who also heads the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. (With reports from AFP, Jenny F. Manongdo, Samuel P. Medenilla, and Ellalyn B. de Vera)
By ELENA L. ABEN
mb.com.ph

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