Daily Israel Report

Philippines Death Toll Rises Beyond 650, All Israelis Okay

At least 650 people are dead, and some 800 others are still missing after Tropical Storm Washi struck the Philippines on Friday.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 12/18/2011, 6:42 PM

Western half of tropical storm Washi
Western half of tropical storm Washi
NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team

At least 650 people are dead, and some 800 others are still missing on the southern island of Mindanao after Tropical Storm Washi struck the Philippines on Friday.

Entire villages were swept away in the storm. The two port cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan were also badly damaged Friday night, with hundreds of bodies later found in both places.

Dozens of bodies later gradually washed up along the shoreline along the Mindanao coast. Some are still being found floating out at sea, the BBC reported.

Although the Philippines is also a very popular tourist destination for Israeli travelers, "All Israelis are accounted for," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told Arutz Sheva Sunday afternoon. "No one has been hurt, and no one is missing."

Israel has already offered assistance to the Philippines, but the country is "still in the middle of formulating its plans," Palmor said. "We are waiting to see what they need," he added. "We are at their disposal."

A number of Israel's foreign workers are Philippine nationals; the country's embassy is located in Tel Aviv.

Many in the area of the country struck by the storm were unprepared for its severity, even though residents and officials had been warned by the state disaster agency three days before it made landfall.

"It's overwhelming. We didn't expect this many dead," Benito Ramos, head of the government disaster response agency, said simply.

Gwendolyn Pang, secretary-general for the International Committee of the Red Cross in the area (ICRC), told the BBC, "Our office was swamped with hundreds of requests to help find their missing parents, children and relatives." Most of the dead were women and children, she said, adding that many bodies were unclaimed, leaving open the question of whether entire families had been wiped out.