The death toll from floods and heavy rains that hit various parts of the Philippines during the Christmas holiday has risen to 15, the dpa quoted the national disaster agency as said Tuesday. “Most of the fatalities drowned due to flash floods,” said Diego Mariano, an information officer at the disaster agency. Eight of the deaths were reported in the southern provinces of Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental and Zamboanga del Sur, the agency said. Five people also died in the eastern provinces of Camarines Sur, Catanduanes and Northern Samar, it added. Two fishermen died after their boat sank off Southern Leyte province on Christmas Day, the coast guard said. Twenty-three people were still unaccounted for amid the bad weather. Most of the missing were fishermen who sailed to sea despite strong winds and big waves, Mariano said. “Search and rescue operations in the coastal areas are continuing, and the coast guard will step up the operations as soon as the weather improves,” he added. More than 166,000 people in over a dozen provinces were affected by the heavy rains and floods, including 45,337 residents forced to flee their homes and stay in evacuation centres, it added. Damage to agriculture and infrastructure was estimated at more than 87 million pesos (1.6 million dollars), the disaster agency said. The weather bureau said no tropical cyclone was affecting the Philippines, but a shear line was causing heavy to intense rains over a large part of the country.