MANILA, May 29 — The death toll from a severe storm that battered the Philippines over the weekend has risen to seven, official figures showed today.

The first storm to hit the country this year made landfall on the central island of Samar late Friday before sweeping northwest to the most populous island of Luzon.

Nearly all the deaths were in Quezon province, near the capital Manila, where three people were killed by falling trees and a baby boy drowned, police told AFP.

A man was found dead at a flooded cafe and the body of another man was recovered from a river, they said.

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The seventh victim was a student who was crushed to death by a falling tree in the southern province of Misamis Oriental on Mindanao island, the national disaster agency said previously.

More than eight thousand people were forced to flee their homes as heavy rain caused widespread flooding, power outages and damage to crops.

The storm strengthened into a typhoon as it moved northeast over the Philippine Sea, the state weather forecaster said.

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About 20 storms and typhoons hit the Philippines or its surrounding waters per year, damaging homes and infrastructure and killing hundreds of people.

The rainy season usually starts in June, but authorities have warned it could be delayed by the El Nino weather phenomenon that has brought drought to swathes of the country. — AFP