MANILA, NOV. 26 (THURSDAY) -- Typhoon Nina slammed into the central Philippines yesterday and church officials in one province said at least 1,600 people were feared dead.

The typhoon roared ashore at the southern tip of the main Philippine island, Luzon, early Wednesday, with winds reported at 75 miles per hour. "As of noon today, more than 1,600 people are confirmed dead," Roman Catholic priest Gerard Deveza said in an interview by radio from Sorosogon, at the southern end of Luzon. He could not say how many bodies had been recovered.

"Most of the villagers are taking shelter in the churches," Deveza said.

A Civil Defense spokesman in Manila could not confirm the toll. "We have no way of getting these {casualty} reports. Almost all the lines to the affected areas are down," he said. The Philippine Red Cross also had no reports from Sorosogon because of damaged communications.

{Another priest, the Rev. Geral de Mesa, told The Associated Press by radio from Sorsogon that the figure of 1,600 dead had been gathered by local government and church groups. He said about 90 percent of the buildings in the province had been damaged or destoryed by the storm.}

{Manila radio station DZMM said the storm had damaged 80 percent of the buildings on the nearby island of Marinduque, AP reported.}

Deveza said in an interview with the church-run Radio Veritas, in Manila, that coastal areas on the eastern side of Luzon island were worst hit by five hours of torrential rain. Almost the entire province had been paralyzed by the storm, with transport, electricity and water supplies cut.

Deveza said the most severe damage was in coastal villages. "Authorities theorize that the tide coming in into the coastal areas was responsible for the deaths of residents in fishing villages in Sorosogon," he added.

He said damage was estimated at about $5 million. "The weather now is okay," he added. "It's not raining here any more."

Nina weakened as it crossed southern Luzon and veered away from the Philippine capital, a weather bureau spokesman said.