Philippines typhoon death toll tops 900

The death toll from the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines this year has climbed above 900, with hundreds still missing, the government said Thursday.

Typhoon Bopha killed 902 people mostly on the southern island of Mindanao, where floods and landslides caused major damage in nearly 2,000 villages on December 4, the civil defence office said.

A total of 615 people remain missing, it said, a big reduction from the previous tally after rescuers found 296 tuna fishermen who had put to sea before Bopha made landfall. The government agency did not give further details.

The typhoon, the deadliest natural disaster to hit the Philippines this year, destroyed 149,000 houses, it said.

About 80,000 people remain in government shelters, where they face months in difficult, crowded conditions as relief officials look for safe areas to build more permanent shelters.

Fifteen "stress debriefers" are now at work in the 63 shelters still in operation to help survivors come to terms with the loss of relatives, homes and possessions.

The United Nations launched a $65 million global aid appeal for typhoon victims on Monday, saying more than five million people faced difficult conditions as they seek to rebuild their lives.

The death toll from Bopha could top the 1,200 people who died last year when Tropical Storm Washi hit Mindanao's north coast.

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