Philippine Typhoon Deaths Reach 1,249
The death toll from the worst typhoon to strike the Philippines in two decades has reached 1,249 with some 1,000 more still missing.
“As long as there are bodies out there in the sea we will continue with the search and retrieval operations, even if it goes beyond the New Year,” Benito Ramos, head of the national disaster agency in Manila told AFP.
Typhoon Washi destroyed more than 10,000 houses and displaced more than 300,000 people on Mindanao island in mid-December.
Ramos added that fishermen from as far as the central island of Bohol were helping recover bodies that had been washed hundreds of miles away. Many houses were destroyed by tree trunks from illegal logging operations, picked up by the massive wave.
President Benigno Aquino, who inspected the disaster zone last week, has ordered an investigation into why officials allowed people to build houses in danger zones and had not stopped illegal logging operations in the area.
The regional head of forestry and mining had resigned and an official supervising Lanao del Sur province had been removed, local radio reported. Most of the logs that crashed into houses were washed down from Lanao del Sur province.
On Monday, the communist party ordered its guerrillas to raise funds and help in relief efforts while threatening to target those it considers responsible for the disaster for "punishment."
Active in 69 of the Philippines 80 provinces, the 5,000-member communist insurgency vowed to "make those responsible for the natural disaster and the ensuing massive loss of lives to answer to the people".
The military said the rebels were using the disaster as pretence to step up extortion of mining, plantation, logging and construction companies.
The government and Maoist rebels have declared unilateral truces during the Christmas and New Year holiday.
The Philippines is currently dealing with two terror insurgencies – one communist, one Islamic.