MANILA, Philippines ? The death toll in what meteorologists had described as an unusual weather phenomenon is rising as rains and floods continue to wreak havoc in Mindanao and parts of Visayas and Bicol.
As of Friday, the casualty figure stood at 21 based on official accounts.
Rescuers recovered eight more bodies Friday. Four bodies were pulled out of a landslide in Bislig. A man and a woman drowned when two boats capsized in Surigao and Dinagat Island while the bodies of two men were fished out in the Agusan River.
While the local weather bureau Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said a cold front on the eastern seaboard triggered the rains, some of its experts earlier said they were puzzled by the phenomenon.
Rising waters and landslides have disrupted the lives of more than 191,000 people, some 21,000 of whom sought refuge out of their homes, the civil defense office said.
Among the flooded areas in Mindanao were the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Gingoog and Oroquieta.
The World Food Programme (WFP), responding to appeals for help from local governments, is to provide up to 630 tons of rice to help 25,000 families displaced by the Mindanao floods, the UN agency said in a statement Friday.
In northern Mindanao, three people remain missing.
The Cagayan de Oro City council declared a state of calamity in the entire city as floods damaged bridges and landslides hit 13 villages, according to Napoleon Austria Jr., social welfare officer.
Misamis Oriental Vice Gov. Norris Babiera said the province?s legislative body declared the province in a state of calamity, too.
He said at least 40 evacuation centers had been set up.
Two bridges that connect Cagayan de Oro City and Gingoog City were threatened by raging floods, forcing officials to close them to traffic and effectively cutting the link between the two cities.
In northern Mindanao alone, more than 100,000 people have been displaced and food is running scarce.
In Compostela Valley, two workers of mining firm Apex Mines-Crew Minerals Corp. were killed in a landslide in Maco town, according to Gov. Arturo Uy.
In Davao del Norte, authorities were bringing relief goods to at least 6,000 families displaced by floods in Tagum City and four towns.
Thousands of residents lost homes in Sulu when waves as tall as houses swept coastal villages.
?It was the first time we experienced this kind of storm surge,? said Christopher Lee, provincial social worker.
Stephen Anderson, WFP country director, said his agency was doing its best to help the flood victims, many of whom were already displaced by fighting between separatist guerrillas and government troops.
Floods in Northern Samar and Cebu have killed 11 persons and displaced more than 16,000 families, according to officials.
On Thursday, Northern Samar Gov. Raul Daza asked the provincial board to declare a state of calamity in the province.
Waves destroyed houses in four coastal villages in Cebu, according to the OCD.
Authorities stopped vessels in Bicol ports from going out to sea, stranding at least 479 passengers.
The weather disturbance, according to meteorologist Corazon Samar of Pagasa, was likely to last until the end of February. Reports from Glorei Lindio, Ephraim Aguilar and Fernan Gianan, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Jhunnex Napallacan and Joey Gabieta, Inquirer Visayas; Grace Albasin, Julie Alipala, Jeoffrey Maitem, Ryan Rosauro, Frinston Lim and Orlando Dinoy, Inquirer Mindanao and AFP