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652 Now Dead in Philippines Storm

Women, children make up majority of the dead
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 18, 2011 9:18 AM CST

(Newser) – Tropical Storm Washi blew past the Philippines today, leaving heartbreak in its wake. The death toll now sits at 652—mostly women and children—with another 900 missing, according to the local Red Cross. Another 45,000 people have been displaced in the coastal cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, reports the AP. "It's overwhelming. We didn't expect" so many dead, says the head of the country's disaster-response agency, adding that authorities are continuing to find bodies floating at sea.

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He attributed the high casualties "partly to the complacency of people because they are not in the usual path of storms" despite warnings by officials that one was approaching. In just 12 hours, Washi dumped more than a month's worth of rain on Mindanao island; flash floods cascaded down mountain slopes and uprooted trees, swelling rivers. "I returned and saw that our house was completely gone," says a 21-year-old who lost her parents and seven other family members. "There was nothing but mud all over and knee-deep floodwaters." (Read more Philippines stories.)

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