December 17, 2011 – Tropical storm Washi ravages Philippines – death toll rises: The death toll from tropical storm Washi has surged to 200, with nearly 400 people missing in flash floods that ravaged the southern Philippines. Over 100 bodies were recovered in Cagayan de Oro, a major port on Mindanao Island, and 75 were found in Iligan, a nearby southern port.
Forty-five people drowned on Mindanao Island, including 40 in Iligan, while five were killed in a landslide in the east of the island.
Iligan mayor Lawrence Cruz described rampaging floodwaters from swollen rivers that swamped at least 10 villages on the city’s outskirts. “It happened so fast, at a time when people were fast asleep,” Cruz told GMA television.
The army mobilized 20,000 soldiers to help in rescue and evacuation efforts on Mindanao, which bore the brunt of the cyclone.
The storm was moving slowly so it dumped a lot of rain over the area. The flooding is extensive. Iligan tourism officer Pat Noel said waters began rising shortly before midnight Friday as people slept, sweeping away houses made of light materials and their inhabitants along the riverbanks. “Many of them told me they sought refuge on their rooftops,” Mr. Noel said. “By the time I arrived they were sweeping thick mud out of their homes and the water on the street was down to knee level,” Noel said, adding that two of three rivers that flow into the port of Iligan had overflowed.
A popular radio commentator was among those killed. Weather forecasters said the eye of the storm passed close to Dipolog city near Iligan early Saturday and Washi was now heading out to the Sulu Sea.
The large western island of Palawan to the northwest lies directly in the path of the storm.
The Philippines is struck by about 20 major storms annually, with most hitting Luzon, the largest and most populous island in the Southeast Asian archipelago. Two typhoons, Nesat and Nalgae, hit the country within days of each other from late September, leaving more than 100 people dead, while tropical storm Banyan killed another eight people in October.
The floods were worsened by the high tide. President Benigno Aquino III expressed alarm over the high death toll and directed officials to extend all assistance to the affected areas.
The Master of Disaster