Storm leaves huge humanitarian needs in Philippines, U.N. says
updated 6:45 AM EST, Thu December 22, 2011
- A tropical storm has left tens of thousands homeless in the southern Philippines
- The United Nations estimates that almost half a million people need help
- Other countries and organizations should step up relief efforts, the U.N. says
- The death toll from the storm stands at more than 1,000
(CNN) -- The devastation in the southern Philippines left by Tropical Storm Washi has created "huge" humanitarian needs in the area, the United Nations said Wednesday, estimating that nearly a half-million people are in need of assistance.
"The first priority is to help those who are displaced as a result of the floods," Valerie Amos, the U.N. emergency relief coordinator, said in comments published on the organization's website. "People urgently need shelter and clean drinking water, as well as bedding, food and basic household items."
Amos called on other countries and international organizations to increase relief efforts for the stricken region. A number of U.N. agencies, including the World Food Program and the World Health Organization, have stepped up humanitarian measures in the past few days, she said.
The storm, known locally as Sendong, plowed across the southern Philippines over the weekend, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless and aid agencies struggling to deal with the aftermath.
The United Nations estimated that about 285,000 people had been displaced, with many of them finding shelter with relatives or in makeshift structures.
The death toll from the storm has increased to 1,002, Benito Ramos, head of the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said earlier Wednesday.
Newly homeless Filipino couple marries
That grim announcement came a day after President Benigno Aquino declared a state of national calamity after visiting areas on the island of Mindanao that were ravaged by flash floods and landslides from the storm.
The Red Cross has said that hundreds of people remain unaccounted for after entire villages were swept away.
The worst of the destruction took place in the port cities Iligan and Cagayan de Oro, which do not usually experience storms as intense as Washi.
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