Disaster officials said 159 people were listed as missing while about 70,000 had been forced from their homes after tropical storm Tembin hit the southern island of Mindanao.

The Philippines is battered by about 20 typhoons a year and warnings are routinely issued, but the level of destruction caused by tropical storm Tembin on the southern island of Mindanao from late on Friday came as a surprise.
The Philippines is battered by about 20 typhoons a year and warnings are routinely issued, but the level of destruction caused by tropical storm Tembin on the southern island of Mindanao from late on Friday came as a surprise. (AFP)

At least 200 people have been killed and scores are missing in the southern Philippines after a tropical storm triggered severe flooding and landslides that also wrecked Christmas for tens of thousands of survivors.

Tropical Storm Tembin lashed Mindanao island, home to 20 million people, on Friday with strong gusts and torrential rain, wiping out at least one mountain village and prompting a massive rescue operation.

Police said 144 people remained missing while more than 40,000 had fled their homes to evacuation camps as Tembin roared out into the South China Sea early on Sunday.

A total of 70,000 have been displaced or otherwise affected by the storm according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), which warned that continued heavy rain could hamper the search for survivors.

"People left everything behind when they fled for their lives," the IFRC's Philippines operations and programmes manager Patrick Elliott said.

TRT World's Joseph Hayat has more.

Village wiped off the map

The archipelago nation is pummelled by major storms every year, many of them deadly. Mindanao tends to be less affected and officials said this may have caused many to ignore warnings to move to safer ground.

One of the places hit hardest was the mountain village of Dalama, which was virtually wiped off the map as rampaging floodwaters carried away 103 houses.

Footage showed houses there destroyed or engulfed by floodwaters and rescuers retrieving the body of a girl buried in a landslide.

Police, soldiers and volunteers used shovels and their bare hands to dig through mud and debris in their search for survivors.

The flood was already close and the people were not able to get out from their homes

Armando Sangcopan, a survivor

"They don't think about Christmas"

In the town of Kabasalan in Zamboanga, dozens of families huddled in the homes of neighbours on Christmas Eve, two days after floods carried off 40 houses, killing three people with one other missing, said local civil defence chief Junalyn Maravillo.

"This is a disaster. They don't think about Christmas. All they think about is what they will eat for today," she said.

The storm swept into the South China Sea before dawn on Sunday after hitting the western tourist island of Palawan overnight on Saturday, the state weather service said.

In a Palawan fishing village, a 53-year-old man was killed by a crocodile while securing his boat in a river.

Tembin struck less than a week after Tropical Storm Kai-Tak left scores dead and more than 20 missing in the central Philippines, straining the disaster-prone nation's already stretched resources.

The deadliest typhoon to hit the country is still Haiyan, which killed thousands and destroyed entire towns in heavily populated areas of the central Philippines in November 2013.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies