Workers remove a fallen tree and electric pylon destroyed at the height of Typhoon Phanfone in Salcedo town in Eastern Samar province on December 26, 2019. Photo: AFP/Alren Beronio

The death toll from Typhoon Phanfone’s battering of the Philippines on Christmas Day has risen to 28, and will likely climb further, authorities said on Friday.

The storm, with wind gusts of up to 200 kilometers, or 124 miles, per hour, swept across remote villages and popular tourist destinations in the central Philippines on Wednesday.

Authorities on Friday confirmed 28 people had died, up from 16 on Thursday, as information came in from badly hit areas where internet and mobile phone networks had been cut.

“The likelihood is present that the casualty count will still increase. We’re hoping against it,” said national disaster agency spokesman Mark Timbal.

He said at least 12 people were still listed as missing.

Among those killed were several members of a family who drowned, a policeman electrocuted by a toppled post while patrolling and a man struck by a felled coconut tree.

The Philippines is a mostly Catholic nation, and Phanfone ruined or disrupted Christmas festivities for hundreds of thousands of people.

The typhoon displaced tens of thousands living on the coast and low-lying areas who were forced to celebrate Christmas in evacuation centers.

Others missed family reunions, with plane and ferry services canceled.

It also hit Boracay island, famed for its white-sand beaches which draw more than one million tourists a year.

Coconut trees were uprooted on Boracay and windows in some resorts were blown in during the storm, and ferry services to and from the island were cut on Wednesday and Thursday.

However, no one died on Boracay, and the damage was not on the scale of badly hit coastal towns elsewhere in the central Philippines.

The Philippines is the first major landmass facing the Pacific typhoon belt and is hit by an average of about 20 storms a year.

Phanfone, locally named “Ursula,” is the 21st cyclone to hit the Philippines in 2019.

Many of the storms are deadly and they typically wipe out harvests, homes and infrastructure, keeping millions of people perennially poor.

Though much weaker, Phanfone tracked a similar path as Super Typhoon Haiyan – the country’s deadliest storm on record which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing in 2013.

Phanfone blew out into the South China Sea on Thursday morning.

It was tracking towards Vietnam on Friday but forecast to weaken significantly into a low pressure area well before making landfall again.

AFP

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