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Philippine Flood Death Toll Rises
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The Philippines government says 240 people are now known to have died in severe flooding caused by Tropical Storm Ketsana.

The country has appealed for foreign aid to deal with the disaster, which has displaced more than 450,000 people. President Gloria Arroyo has opened the presidential palace to survivors to receive food aid and shelter.

Some 380,000 people are living in makeshift shelters, three times more than previously reported. Weather forecasters are predicting more heavy rain later in the week, increasing the urgency of helping those left most vulnerable by the worst flooding in more than 40 years.

The storm that struck the Philippines has now strengthened into a typhoon and is bearing down on Vietnam, where the authorities have ordered the evacuation of more than 100,000 people in coastal areas. Officials say at least 22 people have so far been killed.

"Evacuees will be given shelter in available areas among the Malacanang [palace] buildings and in tents that will be put up in between the buildings," Mrs Arroyo said in a statement announcing the opening of the palace compound.

She said that if required, palace employees would "yield their work stations to provide more space for our displaced countrymen". After word of the offer spread, hundreds of people converged on the palace and received plastic bags filled with noodles and canned sardines.

"We just heard it in the news that they are giving relief goods at the palace so we walked for one hour," street sweeper Rosette Serrano, 31, told the AFP news agency. Ms Serrano lost everything except her clothes when her house was submerged on Saturday.

But officials said people would not be permitted to remain inside the presidential compound unless they were first checked by aid organisations. "We cannot just allow every evacuee in because of logistical and security problems," Wilfredo Oca, an aid to Mrs Arroyo, told AFP.

The sharp rise in the death toll - up 100 from the previous figure - came after more than 90 deaths were recorded in Manila, the National Disaster Co-ordinating Council said in a statement.

The toll is expected to rise further as thick mud is cleared from the worst affected parts of the city. Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said the situation could become worse if aid supplies ran out.

Source: BBC

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