09/29/2009, 00.00
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Typhoon Ketsana heads for Vietnam. 240 deaths and millions displaced in Manila

New major death toll. Gloria Arroyo opens the presidential palace for use as an emergency centre. Request for international assistance. There is urgent need for food, medicine and basic necessities.

Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The tropical storm Ketsana is getting stronger growing into a typhoon, with winds that reach 240 km per hour and in the coming hours is due to hit the north-east of Vietnam.

Meanwhile in Manila, the Philippine government has updated the death toll: 240 dead and 1.87 million displaced. It is calling for international help to tackle the humanitarian crisis.

President Gloria Arroyo has announced she will open the Malacanang presidential palace and will use some parts as an emergency shelter for the homeless. Only 374,890 people have so far found refuge in one of the 600 camps made available by the authorities.

Ketsana, with winds of 100 mph, struck the island of Luzon on 26 September and in a few hours dropped more than 40 inches of rain, flooding some areas with more than 6 meters of water.

Groups of volunteers have been working round the clock to rescue people trapped in the mud, and recover the dead. Even doctors in hospital are working 24 hour shifts. There is urgent need for food, medicine and basic material necessities. Some parts of the Manila metropolitan area are without telephone lines and electricity.

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