ILIGAN, PHILIPPINES - Philippine President Benigno Aquino Tuesday announced a state of national calamity after a review of the situation in typhoon hit Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities in the Mindanao region where the death toll has reached 957.
The flash floods and landslides caused by a typhoon that swept through the southern region late last week has left tens of thousands homeless.
Most of the 957 deaths reported so far have occurred in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities, the national disaster agency. There are 49 people still missing in the natural calamity that hit the region in the early hours of Saturday.
Over 338,000 people in 13 provinces were affected by Typhoon Washi and the subsequent flashfloods, with nearly 43,000 still in evacuation centers.
"First priority is to relocate to areas that no longer pose a danger to them," Aquino said at a meeting with officials in Cagayan de Oro.
More than 10,000 houses were damaged by Typhoon Washi and the flash floods. Declaration of a national calamity help the government to access a bigger pool of funds for relief and rehabilitation, officials said.
Cagayan de Oro and Iligan are struggling to prevent disease from spreading in crowded evacuation centers and have started digging graves to bury decomposing bodies. Mortuaries have been unable to cope and authorities have started digging mass graves to bury victims.
"The tragedy that happened in Cagayan de Oro ... will be repeated in the future. And therefore, there needs to be appropriate preparation to prevent fatalities," Leo Jasareno, acting director of the he state-run Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) said in a television interview.
Jasareno claimed that authorities in the area had been warned last year about the need to relocate families living along riverbanks that swelled after excess rainfall over the weekend.