MANILA - 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 Bopha killed 1,020 people, mostly on the southern island of Mindanao, where floods and landslides caused major damage on Dec 4, civil defence chief Benito Ramos said.
A total of 844 people remain missing, about half of them fishermen who ventured out to sea before Bopha hit, Mr 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 Bopha would exceed the 1,268 confirmed dead after Typhoon Washi hit the southern Philippines in December last year.
"We prepared. We were just simply overwhelmed," said Mr 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 centres almost two weeks after Bopha hit as the search for the dead and missing continues, the civil defence office said.
The storm has also caused massive damage to infrastructure and agriculture, destroying large tracts of coconut and banana trees, said Mr 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.