Rains bring metropolis to standstill
Manila, Philippines – Torrential rains brought the country to a standstill yesterday, forcing at least 20,000 people to flee their homes as floodwaters covered half the sprawling city, authorities said.
Schools, financial markets and most government and private offices were shut as key roadways in Manila a metropolis of some 15 million people were submerged by waters that in some areas reached neck-deep.
In Quezon City, a landslide buried three houses in a shanty community, trapping nine occupants.
Television reports said one body was retrieved.
Rescue operations were still going on at press time for the nine unaccounted persons.
Residents of low-lying slums fled the huge shantytowns lining Manila’s rivers and sewers for the safety of schools, gymnasiums and government buildings as the downpour generated by seasonal monsoons struck overnight.
Army trucks hauled stranded residents from their homes, while enterprising children fashioned crude rafts out of scrap wood and banana tree trunks and charged people to ferry them around.
Power was turned off in some parts of the capital as a precautionary measure as the waters seeped into electrical facilities, the city’s power distributor said.
In some areas of the city, people were trapped on the second floor of their houses by the fastrising waters, said Cora Agulan of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
She said there were many calls for help but in some areas it was too dangerous for rescuers to try to reach those stranded.
“The current is too strong so we have to tie our rubber boats with ropes to keep them from being swept away,“ she said.
Rosario Brutas, a market vendor in Bacoor, Cavite said she and her husband woke yesterday to discover their home already partly submerged.
“We woke up before dawn to find our bed afloat,“ the 32-yearold told AFP from a hospital courtyard where her family and their neighbors had taken refuge.
Bad weather from seasonal southwest monsoons has pounded Manila and nearby areas for over a week since Typhoon Saola brushed past the country’s north.
Before the latest deluge, the death toll from eight days of sustained rains had reached 53 with more than 268,000 people forced to flee their homes across the country, according to disaster authorities.
The La Mesa dam, which supplies water to the capital of 12 million, spilled excess water early yesterday into the rivers flowing into Quezon City, a middle class Manila suburb, as well as the neighborhoods of Malabon, Valenzuela and Caloocan, where several villages were submerged.
Along the swollen Marikina River, police were deployed to move more than 5,000 residents away from the riverbanks in what Vice Mayor Jose Cadiz said was an enforced evacuation. The operation started after the City Hall sounded the alarm bell.
Jean Navarez from the state weather service warned that the floods could worsen as the La Mesa dam, Manila’s sole reservoir, began letting off water that would swell surrounding rivers.
WORK, CLASSES SUSPENDED
Malacañang yesterday suspended work in government and private offices as well as classes in all levels in the National Capital Region and nine nearby provinces due to bad weather.
Exempted from the work suspension are government agencies involved in delivery of basic and health services, disaster response, and vital public services.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Stock Exchange in the financial district of Makati closed down due to flood.
Also closed was the U.S. Embassy along Manila Bay in the historic old city, which was drenched out last week when a storm surge pushed the water over the seawall.
The military, which is involved in rescue work, canceled several events due to the flooding, including an awarding of bounties to tipsters who helped troops capture al-Qaida-linked militants.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) warned that rains will persist until Wednesday, particularly in Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, La Union, Pangasinan, Zambales, Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, and Metro Manila.
About 323 millimeters of rainfall was measured at the PAGASA Science Garden Station in Quezon City from 8 a.m. Monday to 8 a.m. yesterday, weather observer Mark Calpo said.
President Benigno S. Aquino III canceled all of his meetings yeswterday and headed to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City to preside the Command Conference.
“The President’s schedule today is focused on monitoring the weather and flood situation and our appropriate response to our affected countrymen,“ Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a text message yesterday.
The President arrived at the NDRRMC at around 11 am yesterday to check on the country’s situation following heavy downpour that resulted in flooding, swollen rivers, and stranded passengers since Monday night. (AFP, AP, Ellalyn de Vera, Genalyn Kabiling and Madel Sabater)
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