(UPDATE) 'Ondoy' death toll at 141; 37 missing

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 28 2009 06:20 PM | Updated as of Sep 29 2009 08:54 AM

MANILA - At least 141 people have died while 37 others remain missing in the aftermath of tropical storm Ondoy (international codename Ketsana), the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) said Monday in its 9 p.m. bulletin.

National Defense Secretary and NDCC Chairman Gilbert Teodoro earlier said the figures include 86 fatalities in Rizal province alone. He conceded that the figures could go higher as the agency verifies data provided by local government officials.

Unofficial figures received by ABS-CBN News earlier said as many as 78 people were killed in the whole of Marikina while the NDCC only counted one fatality. Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno also reported 17 deaths in Antipolo while the NDCC in its latest bulletin accounted for only 13.

The NDCC said unofficial cost of total damage to property has been estimated at P1.44 billion the bulk of which was the estimated cost of damage to roads and bridges.

Total damage wrought on the country's agriculture and fisheries has been placed at P822 million.

The defense chief said the Commission on Higher Education and the Department of Education should meet on Tuesday to discuss which schools should open by Wednesday. The CHED and DepEd suspended classes in Metro Manila and Rizal until Tuesday.

Many public schools in areas affected by Saturday's floods have been used as evacuation centers.

Teodoro earlier said the NDCC is shifting its focus from rescue to massive relief operations for nearly 500,000 people affected by Ondoy. “The general concentration of the NDCC is to bring food to the relief centers…Relief, relief, relief, that is the challenge. Its going to massive,” he said.

Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said the immediate need is to provide food, water and medicine for thousands of people seeking shelter in government evacuation centers.

Teodoro said some residents in areas that are still flooded would not leave their homes for fear of losing their valuables to looters. "Now the challenge is to get food to them especially because they don’t want to leave the areas where they stay," he said.

“We’ll just try to divide our resources as judiciously as possible. We have really to man the evacuation centers and the relief centers that the local governments will establish, but beyond that, we’ll try our best, if possible, to service the people on the roof,” he said.

He said, however, that the NDCC will concentrate on bringing food to evacuation centers first. "Distribution is a local government duty but we’ll try to help out as we can," he said.

The defense secretary also pleaded for understanding amid reports that some people are still on their rooftops and are awaiting government rescue. He also chastised Sen. Loren Legarda for criticizing the delay in rescue operations.

“We really feel their anger and pain but it is physically impossible to reach each and everyone with the conditions that we face,” he said.

He said the shift to relief operations does not mean that they are abandoning the rescue operations. “The concentration is relief. If there is anybody, for example, somewhere that needs to be rescued, we have to rescue the person,” he said.

NDCC spokesman Anthony Golez said the DSWD has prepared 30,000 family packs as part of the massive relief operations. He said the NDCC has released ”thousands of sacks of rice already to the different areas , particularly those outside Metro Manila.”

Teodoro conducted an aerial survey of Pampanga where a number of landslides occurred. He said about 200 families have to be relocated from Mt. Arayat because of the possibility of landslides.