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Toll nearly 1,000 from Philippines floods

ILIGAN, Philippines - The government shipped more than 400 coffins to two flood-stricken cities in the southern Philippines yesterday as the death toll neared 1,000 and President Benigno Aquino III declared a state of national calamity.

The latest count listed 957 dead and 49 missing and is expected to climb as additional bodies are recovered from the sea and mud in the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro.

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Morgues are overwhelmed and running out of coffins and embalming fluid. Aid workers appealed for bottled water, blankets, tents, and clothes for many of 45,000 in crowded evacuation centers.

Navy sailors in Manila loaded a ship with 437 white wooden coffins to help local authorities handle the staggering number of dead. Also on the way were containers with thousands of water bottles.

Most of the dead were women and children who drowned Friday night when flash floods triggered by a tropical storm gushed into homes while people were asleep.

Dozens of grieving relatives of at least 38 victims wept openly during funeral rites at the Iligan city cemetery.

A Briton was the first foreigner reported dead in the flooding, according to the British Embassy in Manila. It did not provide details.

Aquino, on a visit to Cagayan de Oro yesterday, said the declaration of a national calamity will help local authorities gain quick access to recovery funds and keep prices of basic goods stable. “Our national government will do its best to prevent a repeat of this tragedy,’’ Aquino told residents.

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