MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATED) The death toll from the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year has topped 1,000 and could still rise sharply, the government said on Sunday.
Typhoon Pablo (international name: Bopha) killed 1,020 people, mostly on the southern island of Mindanao, where floods and landslides caused major damage on December 4, civil defense chief Benito Ramos said.
A total of 844 people remain missing, about half of them fishermen who ventured out to sea before Pablo hit, Ramos said, adding he feared many of the missing were dead.
"The death toll will go higher. We found a lot of bodies yesterday, buried under fallen logs and debris," he told AFP.
He expressed fears the toll from Pablo would exceed the 1,268 confirmed dead after Typhoon Sendong (international name: Washi) hit the southern Philippines in December last year.
"We prepared. We were just simply overwhelmed," said Ramos.
"They did not expect this intensity. The last time (this part of the country) got hit by a strong storm was 1912," he added.
He added that even evacuation centres were destroyed by the typhoon.
More 27,000 people remain in such centers almost two weeks after Pablo hit as the search for the dead and missing continues, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said.
The NDRRMC said 571 of the fatalities were from Compostela Valley, while 391 were from Davao Oriental. More than 2,600 others were injured.
The NDRRMC added the damage to agriculture has risen to more than P16 billion while the damage to infrastructure remains at over P7 billion.
The storm has also caused massive damage to infrastructure and agriculture, destroying large tracts of coconut and banana trees, said Ramos.
The Philippines is hit by about 20 major storms or typhoons each year that occur mainly during the rainy season between June and October. -- With report from ANC
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