AROUND 200 people have been killed in one of the deadliest storms to hit the Philippines this year.
Tropical Storm Tembin triggered landslides and flash floods, leaving 160 missing and thousands homeless as it strengthened into a typhoon before moving into the South China Sea.
The Philippines is battered by about 20 typhoons a year and warnings are routinely issued, but the level of destruction wreaked by the tropical storm on the southern island of Mindanao from late on Friday came as a surprise.
Most of the dead and missing were reported in the hard-hit provinces of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur and on the Zamboanga Peninsula.
"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.
Thousands of villagers fled to emergency shelters and more than 500 passengers remained stranded in airports and seaports after the coast guard prohibited ferries from venturing out in the rough seas and several flights were cancelled as the storm raged on Saturday.
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 typhoon was packing maximum sustained winds of 120kph (75mph) and gusts of up to 145kph (90mph).
An inter-island ferry sank off northeastern Quezon province on Thursday after being lashed by fierce winds and big waves, leaving at least five people dead. More than 250 passengers and crewmen were rescued.
The United Nations was ready to help the Philippines, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.
Earlier in the week, another tropical storm left more than 50 people dead and 31 others missing, mostly due to landslides, and damaged more than 10,000 houses in the central Philippines.
The south was hit by another disaster on the weekend when fire swept through a shopping mall in the city of Davao, killing at least 37 people, most of them workers at a call centre, city government officials said.
The vice mayor of the southern city of Davao, Paolo Duterte, said the chance of survival for any of the 37 people missing at the NCC Mall was "zero".
Additional reporting by agencies