| In this file photo, a man is seen riding on a water buffalo in a flooded palm oil plantation in the Philippine town of San Francisco, in Agusan del Sur province on the southern island of Mindanao. |
The Philippine army mobilised 20,000 soldiers to help in rescue and evacuation efforts on the large southern island of Mindanao, which bore the brunt of the cyclone, civil defence official Benito Ramos told AFP.
"The storm was moving slowly so it dumped a lot of rain over the area. The flooding is extensive," said Ramos, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
Cagayan de Oro, Dipolog and Iligan cities, with a combined population of about 700,000 people, were among the flooded areas, Ramos said.
Eleven people drowned in these areas, with three other drowning victims reported in a nearby town, he said. One other person was missing in Cagayan de Oro.
Ramos said 25 millimetres (one inch) of rain had fallen over the past 24 hours, swelling rivers and swiftly inundating low-lying areas.
"Storms rarely hit this area and people probably became complacent even though they knew it was heading their way," he said.
Ramos said he had no figures on the number of people evacuated because the authorities were focused on rescue efforts.
The authorities are checking reports of a landslide on the island's mountainous east, he added.
Weather forecasters said the eye of the storm passed close to Dipolog early Saturday and Washi was now heading out to the Sulu Sea.
The large western island of Palawan to the northwest lies directly in the path of the storm, with winds of 65 kilometres (40 miles) an hour.
Mindanao is a largely agricultural area that is considered the country's breadbasket.
The Philippines is struck by about 20 major storms annually, with most hitting Luzon, the largest and most populous island in the Southeast Asian archipelago.
Two typhoons, Nesat and Nalgae, hit the country within days of each other from late September, leaving more than 100 people dead, while tropical storm Banyan killed another eight people in October.