Philippine authorities yesterday doubled the number of dead and missing in deadly floods to more than 2,000, as relief groups rushed in aid for desperate survivors.
Water, toilets and other facilities are all urgently needed to head off potential epidemics, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) spokeswoman Angela Travis said.
“The water situation is still difficult and we are worried about what this means for their health,” Travis said, adding that damaged tap water systems meant firetrucks had to deliver to the camps.
Nearly half a million people require immediate assistance, UN agencies estimate, including nearly 50,000 at evacuation centers and those reduced to living with relatives and on the streets.
Oxfam International country director Snejal Soneji, said the non-governmental aid -organization would put up latrines on top of about 200 portable toilets that UNICEF is scheduled to deliver tomorrow.
“They’re resorting to unhygienic practices like not washing hands, which could lead to outbreaks of diseases,” Soneji said.
The UN, which launched a US$28.6 million aid appeal on Thursday, likened the force of the disaster to that of a tsunami.
A UN High Commissioner for Refugees chartered plane was to fly into Manila yesterday to deliver the first batch of 42 tonnes of emergency shelters, blankets and kitchen implements intended for the flood areas.
As weary survivors of a disaster that swept away coastal shantytowns prepared for a bleak Christmas, authorities said there were now 1,079 people missing after the weekend’s deluge, up from 51.
The confirmed death toll rose to 1,080 from 1,010.
More than half of those killed were from the major port cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan on Mindanao.
The big jump in the missing came as rural families reported large numbers of relatives who had gone to work in the two cities and remained unaccounted for, Philippine civil defense official Ana Caneda said.
“There are whole families who have gone missing or who died. No one inquired about them before,” she said, adding that often there was no one left to report their disappearance to the authorities.
She also said survivors who were recovering from shock or injuries have also only just realized that they have missing family members.
However, Office of Civil Defense Administrator Benito Ramos said that the list was “just an estimate” and that no one could say for sure how many people had -really been lost.
Authorities have said that many of the dead may never be found after being swept into the sea.
Among the missing is rickshaw driver Gilbert Olano, whose grainy photographs were being posted across Cagayan de Oro by his wife Arlene Olano, 41, after floodwaters devastated their neighborhood.
They bore details like his name, age and a telephone number for people to call with any information on his whereabouts.
“How can we celebrate Christmas without my husband?” the mother-of-three said two days before the mainly Roman Catholic nation’s most festive holiday.
The family, among the many poor migrants who have colonized low-lying areas over the past decade, saw their house in the Tibasak shantytown swallowed up and taken away by the rising river before dawn last Saturday.