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Scramble for shelter as flood toll soars


Video by Rebecca BOWRING


Latest update : 2009-09-29

The death toll from the Philippines' devastating floods has doubled to 240 overnight as hundreds of thousands of exhausted survivors crowded into more than 600 makeshift shelters, including the presidential palace.

AFP - Hundreds of thousands of exhausted Philippine flood survivors crowded into schools, gymnasiums and other makeshift shelters on Tuesday, as the death toll from the weekend disaster soared to 240.

Three days after a once-in-a-generation storm pounded Manila and surrounding regions, officials said they were unable to cope with the enormous number of flood victims who were continuing to pour into the evacuation centres.

"More people are coming in by the hour.... We don't know how long we will be able to sustain this," said Joe Ferrer, a local government official in charge of a shelter on a basketball court on the outskirts of Metro Manila.

"We need clothing, food supplies, food rations and medicine."


Already 3,000 people from the depressed San Andres neighbourhood were at the basketball court, and flood survivors told AFP they were tired and hungry.

The government announced early Tuesday that nearly 375,000 survivors of the devastating rains unleashed by tropical storm Ketsana on Saturday were sheltering in the more than 600 centres.

The number of homeless was a more than three-fold rise from Monday.

The death toll also jumped significantly after authorities finally started to record those killed in Manila, and not just the neighbouring regions.

The latest death toll of 240 was 100 more than Monday's assessment.

The government said 101 people had been confirmed killed in the capital, up from seven on Monday.

Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said he did not expect another similar spike in the death toll, although authorities had yet to fully assess the storm's economic impact.

"I think for casualties, the increases will be not that great, but the damage figure may increase," said Teodoro, who is leading the relief effort.

After admitting it could not cope on its own, the government on Monday appealed to the international community for help.

"The potential for a more serious situation is there and we cannot wait for that to happen," Teodoro said.

The government said Tuesday that tonnes of food aid as well as foreign experts were on their way to the Philippines.

The United States, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore and UN agencies were among the nations or organisations to have given aid.

President Gloria Arroyo described the floods as a "once-in-a-lifetime" event and in an extraordinary move opened the Malacanang presidential palace to flood survivors.

"Evacuees will be given shelter in available areas among the Malacanang buildings and in tents that will be put up in between the buildings," Arroyo said in a statement late on Monday.

"If required, our employees will yield their work stations to provide more space for our displaced countrymen."

After word of the offer spread, hundreds of people converged on the palace on Tuesday morning and received plastic bags filled with noodles and canned sardines.

"We just heard it in the news that they are giving relief goods at the palace so we walked for one hour," said street sweeper Rosette Serrano, 31, who lost everything except her clothes when her house was submerged on Saturday.

However, officials said people would not be allowed to stay inside the presidential compound and shelter there unless they were first vetted by aid organisations.

"We cannot just allow every evacuee in because of logistical and security problems," Arroyo aide Wilfredo Oca told AFP.

Date created : 2009-09-29