The death toll from a typhoon that devastated mountainous and coastal towns in the southern Philippines this month has risen to more than 1,000.
The ferocious winds and flash floods of Typhoon Bopha led to the mounting death toll, which included hundreds of fishermen and villagers.
A spokesman Benito Ramos, who heads the government’s main disaster-response agency, said Sunday that previously unreported deaths have brought the toll wrought by Typhoon Bopha to 1,020.
Rescue teams and International aid groups are still searching for those who went missing in flood-swept mountainside towns and will continue through the Christmas.
Ramos said army troops, police and government personnel have cancelled Christmas celebrations to help survivors deal with losses and search for missing loved ones particularly the worst-hit provinces of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley in Mindanao.
A total of 844 people still remain missing. Half of them are believed to be fishermen who ventured out to sea before Bopha hit.
Ramos said he feared many of the missing were already dead.
“The death toll will go higher. We found a lot of bodies yesterday, buried under fallen logs and debris,” Ramos told the AFP news agency.
“We prepared. We were just simply overwhelmed.”
He also said that the typhoon was far more intense than anticipated.
The storm has caused massive damage to infrastructure and agriculture, destroying large tracts of coconut and banana trees.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council initially estimated damage to crops and public infrastructure at 7.16bn pesos ($174m).