AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
MANILA: The death toll from killer floods in the Philippines surged by more than 200 on Tuesday, more than a week after the disaster struck, with officials expecting more corpses to be found.
The confirmed toll reached 1,453, up sharply from 1,236 the previous day as navy and coastguard ships fished more bodies out of the waters off the southern island of Mindanao, the civil defence office said.
The stench of death pervaded the region, a sign that many corpses still remained unrecovered on land, Ana Caneda, the regional civil defence chief said.
Tropical storm Washi brought heavy rains, overflowing rivers and flash floods to the southern Philippines from December 16 to 18, sweeping away whole villages built on sandbars and riverbanks.
"There are still a lot of areas we have examined that are stinking of dead bodies. We don't know how many people are buried under that mud," Caneda told AFP, adding the toll could reach 2,000.
"There are so many bodies being found, floating in the bays. If not for the small islands in the bays, they would be in the Pacific already," she said.
Recovering the bodies has been hampered by the fatigue of rescue workers who have been labouring non-stop since the storm hit, Caneda added.
"Even the (corpse) sniffing dogs are tired," she said.
Survivors at a sandbar in Cagayan de Oro city, trying to salvage belongings from the mud, instead dug up the bodies of three of their neighbours, the city government said.
Cagayan de Oro and Iligan and bore the brunt of the disaster, suffering most of the fatalities.
More than 376,000 people were displaced by the storm and almost 55,000 are still huddled in crowded makeshift evacuation centres, the disaster council said.