Over 400 coffins sent to flood-hit areas in Philippines

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The Philippines government has shipped more than 400 coffins to two flood-stricken cities in the south, where the death toll was nearing 1,000.

The latest count listed 957 dead and 49 missing and was set to climb further as more bodies were recovered from the sea and mud in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro.

President Benigno Aquino III declared a state of national calamity as relief agencies moved in to help.

A handful of mortuaries were overwhelmed and running out of coffins and formaldehyde for embalming.

Aid workers appealed for bottled water, blankets, tents and clothes for many of the 45,000 displaced people in evacuation centres.

Navy sailors in Manila loaded a ship with 437 white wooden coffins to help local authorities to handle the number of dead. Containers with thousands of water bottles were also being sent.

Most of the dead were women and children who drowned on Friday night when flash floods triggered by a tropical storm gushed into homes while people were asleep.

A Briton was the first foreigner reported dead in the flooding, according to the British Embassy in Manila. It did not give any details.

Mr Aquino, on a visit to Cagayan de Oro yesterday, said the declaration of a national calamity would help local authorities to gain quick access to recovery funds and keep prices of basic goods stable.

He said there would be an assessment of what went wrong and why so many people died, if there was ample warning that a storm would sweep through the area and why people living along riverbanks and close to the coast had not been moved to safety.

“I do not accept that everything had been done. I know that we can do more. We must determine what really happened,” Mr Aquino said. “Must this end in tragedy? We knew that (storm) was coming. There should have been efforts to avoid the destruction.”

The United Nations food agency flew in three tons of high-protein biscuits together with water tanks, blankets, tarpaulins and tents for some 75,000 people.

In New York, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said. “The United Nations and its partners stand ready to support the government in responding to this disaster.”