Philippine flood chaos worsens, death toll at 240

Philippine flood survivors crowded into the presidential palace, gymnasiums and hundreds of other makeshift evacuation centres on Tuesday as the death toll from the disaster soared to 240.

The humanitarian crisis facing the government deepened significantly after it reported hundreds of thousands of people had poured into the centres, where food, medicine and other relief supplies were in dire shortage.

The government said 374,890 survivors of the devastating rains unleashed by tropical storm Ketsana on Saturday across the nation's capital Manila and surrounding regions were now sheltering in the centres. Related article: Disease threat

The death toll had also jumped to 240, 100 more than Monday's assessment, after authorities finally started to record those killed in Manila.

The government said 101 people had been confirmed killed in the capital, up from seven on Monday, but the death toll was expected to rise even further with some areas of the disaster zone still submerged.

After admitting it could not cope on its own, the government on Monday appealed to the international community for help.

"The potential for a more serious situation is there and we cannot wait for that to happen," Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said as he launched the appeal.

The floods on Saturday followed the heaviest rain in more than 40 years in Manila and other areas of Luzon island, leaving 80 percent of the capital underwater.

President Gloria Arroyo described the floods as a "once-in-a-lifetime" event and in an extraordinary move opened the Malacanang presidential palace to flood survivors.

"Evacuees will be given shelter in available areas among the Malacanang buildings and in tents that will be put up in between the buildings," Arroyo said in a statement late on Monday. Related article: Flood hero who perished

"If required, our employees will yield their work stations to provide more space for our displaced countrymen."

Arroyo said she had temporarily moved office to the headquarters of the presidential security force in another section of the compound along the Pasig river. Related article: Arroyo opens palace residence

Elsewhere, hundreds of thousands of people crammed into schools, open-air gymnasiums and other makeshift centres, with officials in charge of them saying they could simply not cope.

"We need clothing, food supplies, food rations and medicines," village chief Joe Ferrer told AFP at an evacuation centre for 3,000 people in Cainta town, east of Manila.

"We don't know how long we will be able to sustain this," he said.