Philippine President Visits Typhoon-Ravaged Mindanao, Declares State of Calamity

Posted December 20th, 2011 at 2:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Philippine President Benigno Aquino visited the typhoon-ravaged southern Philippines Tuesday, declaring a state of calamity as workers continued to pull bodies from landslides and bury them in mass graves.

Mr. Aquino visited the devastated Mindanao island port cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro, and met with local officials to plan further relief operations. He also helped deliver relief goods to stricken survivors.

Authorities said Tuesday that 957 people are known dead from the storm and its aftermath, while 49 others remained missing.

Iligan Mayor Lawrence Cruz said the bodies are being buried in mass graves to prevent a health crisis.

“This is what we are currently doing for the unidentified bodies. It is not really a burial per se, but we are just depositing the bodies in a place where it is safe from the people so as not to threaten public health. But for those who have been identified, we can send them to a permanent resting place if the family agrees.''

Survivors are also facing food and water shortages at Mindanao's overcrowded, makeshift evacuation centers. Almost 50,000 people who lost their homes remain in public shelters.

The flooding was caused by tropical storm Washi, which swept through the southern Philippines Friday evening, dropping a month's worth of rain in 24 hours.

The Office of Civil Defense says some seven thousand houses were swept away, destroyed or damaged.