Wed, Aug 08, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Downpours, flooding swamp Manila

Reuters, MANILA

Deadly torrential rains submerged much of the Philippine capital and surrounding areas yesterday, forcing nearly 270,000 people to flee their homes with more flooding expected in the north of the country as a tropical storm passes through the region, officials said.

Steady rains for the past 10 days, killing more than 50 people, are set to continue until today, the Philippines weather bureau said, fuelled by Tropical Storm Haikui in the Philippine Sea northeast of Taiwan. The storm is headed for China’s Zhejiang Province where more than 250,000 people have been evacuated ahead of expected landfall late today.

“It’s like Waterworld,” said Benito Ramos, head of the Philippines’ national disaster agency, referring to a Hollywood movie about a flooded world.

Schools, financial markets and public and private offices were ordered shut, including outsourcing firms whose corporate clients are mainly from the US and Europe.

Disaster officials said over half of Manila was swamped by floods as high as 3m, worsened by a high tide and the release of water from dams in surrounding provinces.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, in an emergency meeting briefly interrupted by a power failure at the main army base in Manila, ordered officials to exert maximum effort to aid residents in flooded areas.

Officials have deployed army troops, police and emergency workers with rubber boats and amphibious trucks.

The monsoon rains, which dumped about 300mm or three times the daily average of 80mm to 100mm from late Monday to yesterday, were the heaviest in three years, the weather bureau said.

Most major roads in Manila were inundated by knee to waist-deep floodwaters. Some flights were delayed or canceled. Power, water and communications in flooded areas were disrupted. Some of the affected residents were marooned on the roofs of their houses.

“There are about 5,000 people here,” said Ester Ronabio, a public-school teacher and volunteer in one of the temporary shelter areas in low-lying Marikina City in the eastern part of Manila.

“We can’t control the flow of people,” she added.

In a sign of the difficult scramble to move people to safety, Aquino appealed to an anti-graft court to release dozens of rubber boats held as evidence in a case against senior police officials for use in evacuation efforts.

Residents of Manila expressed concern the rains were a repeat of Typhoon Ketsana in 2009, which killed more than 700 people and destroyed US$1 billion worth of private and public property.

“The floods are so deep where we live, we don’t want a repeat of Typhoon Ketsana a few years ago,” said Melanio David, a father of four. “We got scared so we evacuated last night.”

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