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Philippine storm death toll rises to 73
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Seventy-three people were killed while 23 others remain missing one day after tropical storm Kestana battered northern Philippines, bringing epic rainfall that caused massive flooding and landslides, government officials said.

A Filipino girl is carried to safety through floodwaters in a suburb of Manila. [Xinhua/AFP Photo]

By 6 p.m. (1000 GMT) Sunday, 69,513 families in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces have been displaced after homes were destroyed and the government's temporary evacuation centers only managed to shelter around 12,000 families, or nearly 60,000 people, said Anthony Golez, Office in Charge of the National Disaster Coordinating Council.

Most of victims drowned while others were buried in landslides. A soldier and four para-military volunteers were dead while trying to save others, Golez said in the latest NDCC statement.

"It reminded me of the great flood. I remembered the story of Noah's ark. There was devastation everywhere you looked," a 39- year-old survivor trapped inside her submerged home told local media. "We had no food. I only saved the things I can save from my house."

At the worst-hit western suburban of Metro Manila, Xinhua reporters saw over a thousand displaced residents remain stranded in flooded towns, some without food as night nears. Rescuers had a hard time to reach them as access was blocked by crowds of homeless people and lines of damaged vehicles.

Many have to camp out on rooftops in the neighboring Rizal province as heavy rainfall effectly rendered the areas into a huge lake, with roofs popping out of water here and there, a Xinhua stringer aboard the Air Force helicopter saw.

A man rides on an air mattress in flooded areas caused by Storm Ketsana in Cainta suburbs, Rizal province of the Philippines on Sept. 27, 2009. [Luis Liwanag/Xinhua]

Helicopters, rafts, rubber speedboats and improvised boats made of wood and banana trees were dispatched to rescue the trapped victims.

Golez said more than 5,594 people were rescued by the joint forces of military, police, coast guard, red cross, health personnel and volunteers.

Kestana, locally known as Ondoy, slammed into the Philippines early Saturday. As it swept across the central Luzon region in 24 hours, rains poured in the national capital and nearby 25 provinces, causing the worst flooding in four decades.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Sunday vowed to continue the rescue until every one of the victims is accounted for.

"Ondoy was a once in a lifetime typhoon, an extreme event whose record rainfall all strained our response capabilities to the limit but ultimately did not break us. We will repair our damaged infrastructure and assist our people in rebuilding their homes and returning to normalcy," she said in a statement.

On Sunday, both U.S. and Chinese embassies in Manila pledged to donate cash assistance amounting to 60,000 U.S. dollars to the Philippine Red Cross. U.S. navy troops were also ordered to join the rescue operations.

(Xinhua News Agency September 28, 2009)

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