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Rescuers search for Philippine storm victims as toll rises to 200

Disaster officials said 159 people were listed as missing while about 70,000 had been forced from their homes.

Rescuers in the Philippines searched on Sunday for survivors of a storm that triggered floods and landslides. Picture: CNN screengrab.

MANILA - Rescuers in the Philippines searched on Sunday for survivors of a storm that triggered floods and landslides and killed about 200 people, left scores missing and thousands homeless, most of whom apparently ignored warnings to move to safety.

Misery in the largely Christian Philippines was compounded by the death of at least 37 people in a shopping mall fire, officials said on Christmas Eve.

The Philippines is battered by about 20 typhoons a year and warnings are routinely issued, but the level of destruction wrought by tropical storm Tembin on the southern island of Mindanao from late on Friday came as a surprise.

“The figure could increase as we continue to received reports from the field as the weather improves,” said a police spokesman on Mindanao, Superintendent Lemuel Gonda, referring to the death toll.

“We are slowly restoring power and communications in affected areas.”

Disaster officials said 159 people were listed as missing while about 70,000 had been forced from their homes.

Soldiers and police joined emergency workers and volunteers to search for survivors and victims, clear debris and restore power and communications.

Disaster officials said many villagers had ignored warnings to leave coastal areas and move away from riverbanks, and got swept away when flash floods and landslides struck.

The storm was moving west on Sunday, over some outlying Philippine islands and the South China Sea towards southern Vietnam.

It was gathering strength as it moved at a speed of about 12 mph, while packing winds of up 74 mph.

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