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Death Toll in Philippines Continues to Climb from Tropical Storm Ketsana

  • Brian Padden

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Philippine authorities say that 240 people have died in the floods caused by Tropical Storm Ketsana but that number is likely to rise. And rescue efforts could be hampered by new storms that could be heading toward the Philippines.

Rescue efforts are still under way Tuesday in the northern Philippines as the country struggles to recover from one of the worst rainstorms ever to hit the region.

Stephen Anderson is the United Nations World Food Program's country director in Manila. He compares the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Ketsana to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the southern United States in 2005.

"It was more rain in fact than Hurricane Katrina and you know up to 20 feet of water engulfed some parts of Manila, especially the low lying areas," he said.

Hundreds have been reported dead or missing. The government has set up tents to shelter the thousands left homeless by the flooding but says it does not have the resources to help all in need. A state of calamity has been declared in Manila and 25 provinces, and an appeal has been made to the international community for help.

Presidential spokesman Anthony Golez says clean drinking water leads the list of immediate needs.

"The number one priority need for the major relief operation would be the distribution of potable water because we are afraid the line, the water lines may be contaminated," he said.

He says Japan and the United States have been the first to offer assistance. The U.S. military, which already was in the country conducting counter-terrorism training, is providing helicopters, boats and troops to support rescue efforts.

Anderson says the World Food Program is providing 600 tons of rice and will help coordinate the international relief effort. But he says new storms forming in the region could cause additional deaths and damage.

"We're all running against time," he said. "There is an indication that two storms are forming to the east of the Philippines, two tropical depressions that could turn into tropical storms or typhoons. It is too early to know if they will hit us here in Manila but if they do this would indeed be catastrophic."

Ketsana, now a typhoon, hit the coast of central Vietnam Tuesday afternoon. Tens of thousands of residents in the area had evacuated earlier in the day and the government urged residents to take shelter from the storm. The storm is expected to bring heavy rain to Laos, Cambodia and Thailand as it moves inland.

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