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At least 447 dead after storm pummels Philippines

From Maria Ressa, for CNN
updated 9:40 PM EST, Sat December 17, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Philippine Red Cross chairman will travel to stricken region Monday
  • Emergency officials are distributing food rations, blankets and mosquito nets
  • Officials estimate 100,000 are displaced
  • They are investigating reports that an entire village was swept away

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Manila, Philippines (CNN) -- The death toll from a tropical storm that pummeled the Philippines rose to at least 447 on Sunday, according to the national chairman of the Philippine Red Cross.

The vast majority of the bodies were found in the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro, according to military officials and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. Five people were killed in a landslide, but all others died in flash flooding.

The provinces of Compostela Valley and Zamboanga del Norte were also hit, added Benito Ramos, chairman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

About 400 people remain missing after Tropical Storm Washi, which is called Sendong locally. More than 2,000 have been rescued, the country's military reported.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said officials are investigating reports that an entire village was swept away.

Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon will travel to the stricken region Monday to assess the damage, according to a statement from the organization.

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Authorities have also begun distributing food rations for some 10,000 families affected by the storm, while also handing out thousands of blankets and mosquito nets, the Red Cross reported Saturday.

Flash flooding overnight Friday -- following 10 hours of rain -- fueled the devastation, compounded by overflowing rivers and tributaries. As much as 20 centimeters (8 inches) of rain fell within 24 hours in some areas.

Ramos said despite government warning, some did not evacuate.

An estimated 100,000 people are displaced, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

At least 20,000 people were staying in 10 evacuation centers in Cagayan de Oro, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman said Saturday.

Some 20,000 soldiers embarked on search-and-rescue operations, the military said.

Officials asked for volunteers to pack food to send to those displaced.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed her condolences on behalf of the U.S. government and said the United States "stands ready to assist Philippine authorities as they respond to this tragedy."

CNN Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera contributed to this report.

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