At least 72 people have been killed and more than 500,000 have fled to safer ground as floods and landslides caused by monsoon rains devastated wide areas of central Philippines over the past two weeks, officials said Wednesday.

Officials said the death toll and damage estimates were expected to rise once communications lines are restored in the islands of Samar and Leyte and the Bicol region in the southeastern section of the main Luzon island.Manila weather officials said scattered rains continued over the area Wednesday, hampering operations by the military and relief agencies to bring food, medicine and clothes to residents of waterlogged areas.