Sad Christmas for Philippine flood victims

Sad Christmas for Philippine flood victims Iligan: Tens of thousands of Philippine flood survivors queued for their Christmas meal in packed evacuation centres on Sunday, holiday spirits doused by thoughts of more than 2,000 dead or missing kin.

Eight days after devastating flash floods swept to sea entire communities from the southern island of Mindanao, officials said 328,000 people were relying on emergency aid, including more than 69,000 sheltering at evacuation centres.

Village chief Aurelio Magaro joined 422 other survivors from the rural hamlet of Digkilaan lining up for food in the courtyard of a school that was flattened by the overflowing Mandulog river.

"We have a sad Christmas this year, but we remain hopeful that we will recover," said Magaro, who said he lost 15 relatives to rampaging floodwaters unleashed by tropical storm Washi on December 17. "How can we celebrate Christmas? We have no money and our houses are gone," said an elderly woman in the queue, who like Magaro is temporarily sleeping at a nearby chapel.

A child sat on the drying mud nearby wearing a red-and-white Santa Claus-style bonnet, the only local reminder of Christmas in this mainly Roman Catholic country.

The official toll stood at 1,183 dead, said Lieutenant Colonel Leopoldo Galon, a regional military spokesman.

Rescuers say more than a thousand others were listed as missing by relatives, though officials caution many of them could be among the many unclaimed and badly decomposed cadavers at overflowing local mortuaries.

Iligan health officer Levy Villarin said city facilities including schools and gymnasiums were sheltering 57,000 people, including at least 5,000 who had lost their homes and others whose dwellings were choked with mud.