Aquino pledges aid after Philippines floods, more than a thousand dead or missing
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Philippines authorities on Tuesday began burying the dead from flash floods that have left more than 1,000 dead or missing, as President Benigno Aquino declared a national disaster.
Aquino flew to Mindanao island to inspect the ports of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan where there are hundreds of decomposing corpses after tropical storm Washi struck at the weekend.
On Monday as the stench of decomposing bodies grew unbearable and health fears rose, local authorities had announced plans for burials in mass graves but after intense criticism they hastily arranged individual tombs.
President Benigno Aquina pledged aid to the slum communities hit by the disaster, which the government has said left 957 people dead and 49 others missing, a toll which could rise as bodies swept out to sea begin to surface.
"I assure you the government will help you rebuild your homes. But in return we expect you to refrain from moving back to those places that put your lives at constant risk," Aquino said in a speech at an evacuation centre.
The president also pledged to repair damaged roads and water systems, and water level sensors for all major river basins across the country to help communities avoid similar disasters.
Officials and experts said many of the dead were informal settlers living in shantytowns built on river sand bars made up of soft and unstable sediment.
But Cagayan de Oro Mayor Vicente Emano said that despite the president's words, he would be unable to stop survivors returning unless the government can offer them homes elsewhere.
"These people will insist on going back because they have no other place to go back to. Are you going to shoot them?" he said on ABS-CBN television.
Meanwhile the Asian Human Rights Watch Commission has criticised the warnings given by weather forecasters, saying they were too complicated for ordinary people to understand.
Washi brought heavy rains that swelled rivers, unleashing flash floods and landslides that struck in the dead of night.
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