Heavy rain and floods in Philippines leave 32 dead and 24 missing

The death toll from heavy rain and floods that lashed the Philippines over the Christmas weekend has increased to 32, with 24 people still missing.

The latest figures were released by the national disaster response agency on Thursday as rescue operations continued for people in areas hit hard by the flooding.

The agency said most of the deaths were from drowning, while among the missing were fishermen whose boats capsized.

More than 56,000 people were still in emergency shelters after bad weather disrupted Christmas celebrations in the eastern, central and southern Philippines.

Images from the southern province of Misamis Occidental showed rescuers carrying an elderly woman on a plastic chair as they waded through a flooded street.

Some residents in the province were seen hanging on to floaters as coast guard rescuers pulled them across chest-deep floods using a rope.

Eighteen of the 32 deaths were reported in the Northern Mindanao region, while 22 of the 24 missing were from Eastern Visayas in the central Philippines and the eastern Bicol region, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said.

An elderly woman sits on a chair while being carried by coast guard personnel wading through floodwaters in Plaridel, Misamis Occidental province in the southern Philippines (Philippine Coast Guard/AP)
An elderly woman sits on a chair while being carried by coast guard personnel wading through floodwaters in Plaridel, Misamis Occidental province in the southern Philippines (Philippine Coast Guard/AP)

Over 4,000 houses were damaged by the floods forcing 80,000 people to take shelter in evacuation centres, with roads and bridges and some areas left without power or water.

A shear line — the point where warm and cold air meet — triggered rains in parts of the country, the state weather bureau said.

Forecasters believe more rainfall can hit flooded areas in the next 24 hours, albeit with lower intensity.

The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate crisis-induced disasters as global warming makes heavy rainfall and storms more likely around the world.

The nation of 110 million people has suffered several fatalities in recent years due to disasters. In October and November, tropical storm Nalgae hit the country leaving 160 people dead.

Additional reporting by agencies