MANILA, Philippines - Just after 1 a.m. Saturday, Mary Ann Melancio became concerned about a coworker. He had sent her a text message saying he was trapped by floodwaters in his home with his wife and 10-year-old daughter.

"I called him, and he said in a very quiet voice, 'The water is up to our stomachs, and we can't get out. The current outside is strong,' " recalled Melancio, 36, a resident of the flood-stricken city of Iligan. "After that, the phone went dead."

When the sun rose Sunday, Melancio and others went to their coworker's house, but he was gone. They fear he was swept away with his family.

"We walked back to our place and could see the bodies of dead people and animals along the road," she said by telephone. "I have never seen a tragedy like this in my life."

In neighborhoods throughout the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, similar stories could be heard. In the dead of night Saturday, flash floods triggered by Tropical Storm Washi sent water surging into the homes of sleeping families. Hundreds drowned or were dragged to their deaths by the currents.

By late Sunday, the Philippine Red Cross estimated that 652 people had died in the flooding and that more than 800 were missing. The death toll was expected to rise significantly. An estimated 35,000 people were in evacuation centers, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

The storm hit the western island of Palawan on Sunday morning and by night was moving into the South China Sea.

The Philippines is struck by about 20 major storms a year, but Benito Ramos, a civil defense official, said during a news briefing in Manila that this storm took an usual path. Local officials confirmed his assessment.

Rescue workers continued to search for survivors on Sunday, but many - including thousands of soldiers - instead found themselves assigned to the task of collecting the dead.

Funeral homes in the two worst-hit cities reported that they were overwhelmed with corpses decomposing in the tropical humidity.

In Cagayan de Oro, Nove Paulio said that rescue workers had come to her neighborhood but that there was no one left to find.

"The houses in my place are empty or destroyed," said Paulio, 19, who lived with her parents, sister, and three brothers in an area near a river that flooded.

Paulio said she had been sleeping at about 1:30 a.m. when she felt water touch her foot, which was hanging off the bed. She ran to wake up her mother and siblings, and within minutes the water was up to her hips.

Her mother clutched her infant sister, while she picked up her brothers, ages 2 and 3, and carried them out of the house.

"Our kitchen table was floating," Paulio said. "My brothers were crying and asking what was happening."

The family made it to the roof of a nearby house and with the assistance of neighbors were able to swim, roof to roof, until they reached higher ground.

"We are still alive, but we lost everything," she said.