MANILA, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- The death toll from landslides and flooding triggered by heavy rains in the Philippines has climbed to 71, the government disaster agency said on Monday night.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said in its latest report that 17 people were still missing and 12 others were injured.
The deaths were mostly due to landslides and drowning in the Bicol region, Eastern Visayas in the central Philippines and in several provinces south of Manila, according to the NDRRMC.
The agency said nearly 1300,000 people from 321 villages in four regions were affected by widespread flooding and landslides, including the provinces of Albay, Catanduanes, Sorsogon, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Masbate.
The NDRRMC said its offices in the affected regions "are still on alert and are continuously monitoring the on-going response in the affected areas."
Albay, Camarines Sur and Sorsogon, which are the most affected provinces, were placed under a state of calamity since Sunday.
Many parts of the Bicol region were still underwater, according to Janet Ramos, a resident of Daraga town in Albay province.
"Flood waters are still waist-deep in the lower parts of our village," she told Xinhua, adding that rains continued to pour down on Albay province.
Jessica Blacer of Pilar town in Sorsogon province also said that many of the rice fields had overflown due to heavy rains. "We evacuated to higher ground to avoid the rising flood waters," she told Xinhua.
Moreover, the agency said that rescuers from the military, the police and other government agencies were conducting search, rescue and retrieval operations in some areas in the northern and central Philippines.
Aside from strong winds and heavy rains, areas ravaged by the tropical depression experienced power outages.
Several houses were buried in landslides and roads sections were impassable due to severe flooding.
The agency floated the possibility that the death toll would increase as retrieval operations continued.
The Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development provided the evacuees with family food packs and other relief goods. The agency also had standby emergency-relief funds worth around 212 million pesos (nearly 4 million U.S. dollars).
The country's national weather bureau earlier warned heavy rains might pour over the northern and central Philippines brought by the tropical depression, which had already weakened into a low-pressure area after making landfall in Eastern Samar in the central Philippines on Saturday.
Although the low-pressure area already left the Philippines on Sunday, the national weather bureau warned that more rain is expected in the coming days.