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UN: Philippine floods like tsunami

Two cities in the Philippines that were devastated by flash floods that killed more than 1,000 people look like they had been hit by a tsunami, a United Nations official has said as he appealed for 28 million US dollars (£17.8m) in aid to help the half a million people affected by the disaster.

UN humanitarian coordinator Soe Nyunt-U also voiced concern about the possibility of disease outbreaks among the thousands living in evacuation centres after their houses were washed away last Friday when a tropical storm unleashed flash floods.

"Entire areas were completely flattened. Only a few sturdy buildings remain standing, and these had sustained a lot of damage," he said.

"Debris from houses, buildings and other structures that had been destroyed by the storm was all swept out to the sea, leaving huge areas devoid of all traces of habitation."

Mr Nyunt-U said he is hopeful donors and foreign governments will respond to the appeal despite the global economic crisis.

He added: "It's the Christmas season and the willingness of the international community is high."

Around 45,000 displaced individuals are inside evacuation centres, most of them in the worst-hit Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities in the southern Mindanao region, which are home to nearly a million people. Another 266,000 are being assisted outside temporary shelters.

A handful of funeral homes in the region complained they were overwhelmed and could no longer accept bodies, which were still being retrieved from the sea or mud almost a week after the disaster struck.

Mr Nyun-U explained a cholera-type virus may occur due to problems stemming from congestion in the evacuation centres, where poor sanitation and hygiene posed a health risk.

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