Fatalities caused by tropical storm Sendong (international name: Washi) may exceed 1,000 as authorities continue to recover bodies despite “losing count” of those who are still missing.

Benito Ramos, administrator of the Office of Civil Defense, said his office has already confirmed 957 deaths in Northern Mindanao, Central Visayas, Southern Mindanao, ARMM, Western Mindanao, and Caraga.

“Lalampas pa ng 1,000 dahil marami pang missing,” Ramos told reporters in a phone interview from flood-hit Cagayan de Oro City.

In its latest report yesterday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Coordinating Council said 49 people have yet to be accounted for in the affected areas, but military units reported 966 persons missing in Northern Mindanao alone.

“Wala tayong matino na (number ng) missing dahil we lost count sa dami… pati local governments they lost count already,” Ramos said, referring to Cagayan de Oro City and Iligan City, where most of the fatalities are.

Thousands to spend Christmas, New Year in evacuation centers

“Sendong,” said to be the worst storm to hit the country in terms of casualties since “Oreng” killed almost 5,000 in a flash flood in Ormoc in 1991, affected 63,079 families or 338,415 people.

Of those affected, an estimated 284,610 people, remain in evacuation centers in Negros Oriental, Iligan City, Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental, Compostela Valley, and Agusan del Sur, according to the NDRRMC.

“Aabutin sila ng Pasko diyan… pagdating ng New Year andiyan pa rin sila sa evacuation center, malungkot,” Ramos said.

“Normal na ang situation dito, nasa evacuation centers na ang mga tao… ang daming tao, ang problema lang shelter, how to sustain them for a long period of time,” he added.

Ramos maintained that the national government did not fail to warn residents of flash floods and landslides, but also blamed the incidents on illegal logging, illegal mining, and silted rivers.

“Illegal logging dahil ang daming troso na pinutol, binunggo nila ‘yung mga tulay.. illegal logging, illegal mining, ‘yan lahat, silted na rin ang mga ilog,” he said. (John Roson)

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