180 dead, nearly 400 missing in Philippine storm: army

AFP , Saturday 17 Dec 2011

Tropical storm Washi rakes across the southern Philippines causing widespread flooding and leaving some 180 people dead and 400 others missing

Police and rescuers line up bodies after retrieving them from a damaged site following a flash flood that hit Cagayan de Oro city, Philippines, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011. (Photo: AP)

The death toll from tropical storm Washi surged to 180 on Saturday with nearly 400 people missing in flash floods that ravaged the southern Philippines, officials said.

Regional military spokesmen told reporters 97 bodies were recovered in Cagayan de Oro, a major port on Mindanao island, and 75 were found in Iligan, a nearby southern port, accounting for most of the deaths.

They said 375 people were still missing from the two cities alone.

Civil defence director Benito Ramos, the head of the disaster council, said a second army division was deployed in Iligan, a nearby port which reported 40 deaths, and nearby areas.

He told reporters floodwaters rose with alarming speed late Friday as people slept.

Although residents had been warned of the approaching storm, some apparently dismissed the dangers of flash floods and landslides because -- unlike the rest of the archipelago -- most of Mindanao is rarely hit by storms.

"Complacency apparently set in," Ramos said.

All but five of the confirmed deaths were victims of flash floods, he said. The five others were buried in a landslide in the island's mountainous east.

The Philippines is hit by about 20 storms and typhoons each year, most hitting the north of the country.

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