Philippines typhoon death toll 'likely to hit 1,500'

MANILA, Dec 22, 2012 (AFP) -- The death toll from a typhoon that devastated the Philippines earlier this month will likely hit 1,500, making it the second deadliest since the country began keeping records, the civil defence chief said Saturday.

Benito Ramos said that so far they had counted 1,067 dead with more than 800 still missing after Tyhoon Bopha hit the southern island of Mindanao on December 4.

"It (the death toll) will go higher. But let us not assume the missing are already dead," he told AFP, estimating fatalities at "about 1,500" but adding that the search for the missing continued.

The toll from Typhoon Bopha is expected to easily exceed the 1,268 confirmed dead after Typhoon Washi struck the southern Philippines in December 2011, he said.

If the toll reaches 1,500 it would make it the second deadliest storm to hit the Philippines since 1947, when the Philippines began keeping records a year after independence.

Typhoon Thelma, which killed at least 5,101 in 1991, remains the deadliest on record, the government statistics bureau said. Typhoon Ike, which claimed 1,363 lives in 1984, is listed as second.

Thousands of people remain homeless after Typhoon Bopha brought flash floods that wiped out whole towns.

However Ramos expressed confidence there would be no rise in health problems as the government had brought enough food and medicine to care for those affected.

"It will be contained. the government presence is felt by the people already," he said.

The Philippines is hit by about 20 major storms or typhoons each year that occur mainly during the rainy season between June and October.