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Tropical Storm Hits Philippines; Hundreds Dead
December 18, 2011

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People in the southern Philippines continue to clean up and fear the the worst in the wake of a massive storm that triggered devastating flash floods, leaving more than a thousand people dead or missing.

Tropical Storm Washi, which blew through large parts of Mindanao island, killed at least 652 people and displaced tens of thousands, according to the Philippine Red Cross. More than 900 people are still missing. The government's Office of Civil Defense, which had issued storm warnings well before the storm hit, said that more than 400 people had been rescued.

The cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro were hit hard by the tropical storm, with electricity and running water in short supply, after more than a month's worth of rainfall fell on the two cities in half a day. Flooding was prevalent, hampering rescue efforts on land. Some rescuers rowed boats offshore to rescue people who had been swept out to sea.

The country is no stranger to tropical storms, suffering damage for about 20 every year. But the mountainous region of the island that Washi hit is unaccustomed to such powerful storms, especially during the Christmas season, when many people living overseas return home for holiday gatherings with family. Many of the dead were women and children, fast asleep when the floodwaters hit in the middle of the night.

Army officials, including Secretary of Defense Voltaire Gazmin, canceled Christmas parties so they could help with rescue efforts, while also offering to donate all available food and water to survivors.



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