MANILA — Rescuers hauled up bodies with fishing nets Saturday off the Philippine island of Leyte, where more than 7,000 people may have died in devastating floods, relief officials said.
Navy boats and fishermen retrieved hundreds of corpses from the sea outside the port of Ormoc, bringing the death toll to 5,365 with 2,046 other people missing and presumed dead, said officials in the Leyte provincial capital of Tacloban.
"There is a possibility the death toll will go up to close to 8,000," said Aurora Laboy, administrative officer for the Leyte disaster coordinating council. The missing "are most likely dead by now. We have no more hope for them."
She added that most of the bodies recovered Saturday were believed to have been washed up to the Ormoc shore from other islands that were struck by tropical storm Thelma on Tuesday.
President Corazon Aquino flew today to Ormoc, 340 miles southeast of Manila, to inspect the damage. She has ordered massive rehabilitation work, declaring Leyte a disaster area.
Laboy, quoting radio reports from rescue workers in Ormoc, said "many more bodies" had been seen floating in Ormoc Bay and navy boats, fishermen and volunteers continued to retrieve them.
Up to 90% of the 3,000 people living in Isla Verde village in Ormoc were feared to have drowned in the floods, officials said.
Meanwhile, the Manila weather bureau reported that a typhoon called Seth was heading for northern and central areas of Luzon island and would begin to affect weather there by Monday.