Typhoon Rai death toll in Philippines tops 200
More than half the fatalities occurred in the central Visayas tourist region
The death toll in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Rai has risen to 208, after the storm carved a trail of destruction in central and southern provinces late last week, the national police spokesperson said on Monday.
There were 52 people still missing, according to police data, as relief efforts continued following one of the deadliest
typhoons to have struck the Southeast Asian archipelago.
The police have been mobilized for relief operations and to ensure order in calamity stricken areas, national police
spokesperson Roderick Alba said.
The number of casualties cited by police was far higher than the 58 deaths recorded by the national disaster agency over the weekend. The agency said it was still validating reports from affected regions.
More than half of the deaths reported by police were fatalities in the central Visayas region, which includes Bohol province, home to some of the country's most-popular tourist destinations for diving and coral reefs.
On Sunday, Bohol Governor Arthur Yap reported 74 deaths in his province, citing partial reports that he said had been verified by both the health department and local government officials.
Relief operations have been accelerating but remain hampered by damage caused to communication and power lines, which have yet to be restored in many devastated areas.
Rai had displaced nearly 490,000 people in the Philippines before it moved toward the South China Sea over the weekend, also leaving huge destruction in the provinces of Cebu, Leyte, and Surigao del Norte, including the popular Siargao surfing destination, and Dinagat Islands.
President Rodrigo Duterte has committed to release around 2 billion pesos ($50 million Cdn) in funds to typhoon-hit provinces to help in recovery efforts.
The deaths and widespread damage left by the typhoon ahead of Christmas in the largely Roman Catholic nation brought back memories of the catastrophe inflicted by another typhoon, Haiyan, one of the most powerful on record. It hit many of the central provinces that were pummelled last week, leaving more than 6,300 people dead in November 2013.
At the Vatican, Pope Francis expressed his closeness Sunday to the people of the Philippines, referencing the typhoon "that destroyed many homes."
About 20 storms and typhoons batter the Philippines each year. The archipelago also lies along the seismically active Pacific "Ring of Fire" region, making it one of the countries most susceptible to natural calamities.