x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Philippines typhoon death toll rises as authorities expand search for missing people

The death toll in the country's worst natural disaster in two decades has risen to 1,249 with about 1,100 missing, as communist rebels say the people responsible should be punished.

MANILA // The death toll in the Philippines from one of the country's worst natural disaster in two decades has risen to 1,249 with about 1,100 missing, disaster officials said yesterday, as communist rebels said the people responsible should be punished.

Typhoon Washi sent torrents of water, mud and logs cascading through riverside and coastal villages on Mindanao island this month, destroying more than 10,000 houses and displacing more than 300,000 people, who are mostly in emergency shelters.

Benito Ramos, the head of the national disaster agency, said fishermen from as far as the central island of Bohol were helping recover bodies that had been washed hundreds of miles away.

"As long as there are bodies out there in the sea we will continue with the search and retrieval operations, even if it goes beyond the New Year," Mr Ramos said.

Authorities had expanded the search area to a radius of 300 kilometres, he said.

The communist party ordered its guerrillas to raise funds and help in relief efforts, and, as it marked its 43rd anniversary, it threatened its own punishment for those responsible for the disaster. Active in 69 of 80 provinces across the country, the 5,000-member rebel force said it would "make those responsible for the natural disaster and the ensuing massive loss of lives to answer to the people".

The military said the rebels were using the disaster as a pretence to step up extortion of mining, plantation, logging and construction companies.

The government and the Maoist rebels have declared unilateral truces during the Christmas and New Year holiday.