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Death toll from Philippine storm reaches 100

RESCUERS pulled the dead from swollen rivers today and thousands were without drinking water, food and power as the death toll from the worst flooding in the northern Philippines in more than four decades climbed to 100.

Officials expected the toll to rise as rescuers penetrate villages blocked off by floating cars and debris since Tropical Storm Ketsana swept through over the weekend, leaving 32 missing.

Overwhelmed authorities were trying to verify scores of unconfirmed deaths, including in several metropolitan Manila cities and nearby Rizal province, where about 99 more people reportedly died, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said.

As tens of thousands of residents began a massive cleanup and the storm left the Philippines, the extent of devastation became clearer - mud-covered communities, car-choked streets and huge numbers of villagers without drinking water, food and power.

In Manila's suburban Marikina city, a sofa hung from electric wires.

Resident Jeff Aquino said floodwaters rose to his home's third floor at the height of the storm Saturday, when it dumped more than a month's worth of rain in just 12 hours.

Aquino, his wife, three young children and two nephews spent that night on their roof without food and water, mixing infant formula for his 2-year-old twins with the falling rain.

"We thought it was the end for us," Aquino said.

The government has declared a "state of calamity" in metropolitan Manila and 25 storm-hit provinces, including many that have not flooded before, allowing officials to use emergency funds for relief and rescue.

More than 450,000 people were affected by the storm, including some 115,000 brought to about 200 schools, churches and other evacuation shelters, officials said. Troops, police and volunteers have been able to rescue more than 7,900 people so far, Teodoro said.

He said government welfare officials have begun focusing on providing food, medicine and other necessities to those in emergency shelters.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has said the storm and the flooding were "an extreme event" that "strained our response capabilities to the limit but ultimately did not break us."

While Arroyo has not asked for international help, spokesman Anthony Golez said the government would welcome any assistance.

The United States has donated $100,000 and deployed a military helicopter and five rubber boats manned by about 20 American soldiers from the country's south, where they have been providing counterterrorism training. The United Nations Children's Fund has also provided food and other aid.

The 16.7 inches (42.4 centimeters) of rain that swamped metropolitan Manila in just 12 hours on Saturday exceeded the 15.4-inch (39.2-centimeter) average for all of September, chief government weather forecaster Nathaniel Cruz said.

Government forecasters tracked the storm moving toward Vietnam today at about 372 miles (600 kilometers) west of the northern Philippines.


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