Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Heavy rains flooded Philippines, 7 dead

Philippines flood, typhoon, Maring, Tropical storm
Floodwaters submerged houses in BF Resort Village in Las Pinas
Philippines flood, typhoon, Maring, Tropical storm
Sucat Road in Parañaque
Philippines flood, typhoon, Maring, Tropical storm
Manila Flood
Philippines flood, typhoon, Maring, Tropical storm

Flood-battered residents of the Philippine capital Manila fled their homes or sat on rooftops Tuesday as relentless monsoon rains, which have killed seven people, submerged more than half of Manila.

Streets turned into rivers with water above two metres (7 feet) in some parts of the metro of 12 million people, displacing more than 130,000 people and forcing countless others to wait out the storm in or on their flooded homes.

"We have had nothing to eat, nothing to wear. A few people went to houses on higher ground, but most of us had nowhere to go," Dinah Claire Velasco, 44, a resident of a blue-collar coastal district on the outskirts of Manila told AFP.

"My children and other people were able to seek refuge on the second floor of my house but a lot of others had to just sit on their roofs... We're waiting for rescue, for help, even just food."

At least 60 percent of Manila was flooded on Tuesday morning, with some places enduring waters climbing as high as 2.1 metres, an official with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority told the briefing.

In one part of the capital, 47.5 centimetres (18.7 inches) of rain fell in the 24 hours to Monday morning, according to Esperanza Cayanan, a meteorologist in charge of Manila for the state weather forecaster.

She said this was the same amount as which normally fell for all of August, already one of the wettest months of the year.

In a potentially serious escalation the Marikina River, a key waterway that cuts through eastern Manila, began to overflow on Tuesday afternoon, and 20,000 people close by were ordered to evacuate, the local mayor, Del de Guzman, told AFP.

These people were on top of the 131,000 people across the main island of Luzon, including Manila, that the government said were in evacuation centres or seeking shelter with relatives and friends.

Groups involved in the rescue effort said they were being overwhelmed.

"We are getting a lot of calls for rescue... we would really be hard pressed to rescue all of them," a Philippine Red Cross official told a government briefing on the floods, which was broadcast on national television.

While no one was reported killed in Manila, four more people were confirmed to have drowned in flooded farming provinces to the north, said Reynaldo Balido, a spokesman for the government's disaster management council.

This brought the confirmed death toll from two days of flooding across Luzon to seven.

The economic toll also started to grow, with the stock exchange, government offices and schools in Manila closed for a second consecutive day.

Many domestic flights at Manila's airport were cancelled, as were some international flights. Flooded roads to the airport were impassable.

The state weather agency warned the rain would continue into Tuesday evening, before easing on Wednesday.

The heavy rains were due to the seasonal monsoon being exacerbated by Tropical Storm Trami, known locally as Maring, which was hovering to the north of the Philippines.

Trami had been nearly stationary since Monday, according to the weather bureau.

The Southeast Asian archipelago endures about 20 major storms or typhoons annually, generally in the second half of the year and many of them deadly.

The extent of the flooding across Manila recalled memories of Tropical Storm Ketsana, which flooded 80 percent of the capital in 2009 and claimed more than 460 lives.

However Ketsana took most people in Manila by surprise, and residents as well as the government have taken many measures to be better prepared.

These include extensive social media alerts informing people about places to avoid and offering a platform to appeal for help.

One of the most important tools this week has been the #RescuePH hashtag on microblogging site Twitter.

"URGENT RESCUE: floods now reaching the second floor of houses there. #RescuePH" one post said, identifying the location of the district in Manila.

In Marikina, some 12,000 people have been housed in evacuation centers as Marikina River reached its critical level of 18 meters due to torrential rains brought by the storm-enhanced southwest monsoon.

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