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Philippines death toll tops 200

Rescuers have described digging up bodies of whole families buried under mud.
Rescuers have described digging up bodies of whole families buried under mud.

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Heavy rains have created mudslides, killing scores in the southern Philippines.
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MANILA, Philippines (CNN) -- The death toll from a series of mudslides and flooding in the Philippines has climbed to more than 200.

Philippine officials said on Tuesday at least 209 people have died after the heaviest rainfall in 25 years hit the nation.

Authorities have blamed illegal logging for contributing to the landslides.

Food and other aid is being sent to the worst affected areas, with the United States offering military helicopters, although bad weather has hampered some deliveries, blocking roads and downing power and phone lines.

Rescue crews have been battling rain and mud with shovels and bare hands in the search for survivors.

The landslides were triggered by days of pounding rains and winds in six provinces near the Pacific Ocean late Friday to early Saturday.

The majority of the casualties have been from Leyte province. Mindanao island has also been hit hard.

In three days of storms last week, more than a meter of rain fell in Surigao City and nearly 0.7 meter in Maasin -- more than three times the monthly average, according to Florintino Tesoro from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.

Rescuers have described digging up bodies of whole families buried together, including a mother embracing her children.

In a rural, candlelit morgue, wooden coffins bearing pieces of paper with the scrawled names of the dead lay side by side.

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