Relentless rains submerged half of the Philippine capital Manila yesterday, sending emergency crews scrambling to rescue tens of thousands of residents who called media outlets pleading for help.
The rain also triggered a landslide that killed nine people in the worst deluge since 2009, when hundreds died in rampaging flash floods.
The capital and other parts of the country were already saturated from Typhoon Saola, which battered Manila and the north for several days last week before blowing away on Friday. That storm was responsible for at least 53 deaths.
“It’s like a water world,” said Benito Ramos, head of the government’s disaster response agency. He said the rains flooded 50 per cent of metropolitan Manila on Monday evening, and about 30 per cent remained under water yesterday.
Last night, he urged residents in areas prone to landslides and floods to stay in evacuation centres. Because the soil is saturated, even a little rain could be dangerous, he added.
“Now that it’s getting dark, I would like to repeat, if the rains are heavy you should be at the evacuation centres,” he said.
Manila’s weather bureau said a tropical storm off eastern China had intensified monsoon rains in the Philippines, which were forecast to last until Thursday.
In Manila’s suburban Quezon City, a landslide hit a row of shanties perched below a hill, burying nine people, according to Ramos.
Army troops and police dug frantically to save those buried, including four children, as surviving relatives and neighbours wept. Police ordered all other slum dwellers to be evacuated from the area.
TV footage showed rescuers dangling on ropes to bring residents to safety from flooded houses across the city.
Many people trapped in their homes called local radio and television stations desperately asking for help.
“We need to be rescued,” Josephine Cruz told DZMM radio as water rose around her house in Quezon City, saying she was trapped in her two-storey house with 11 other people, including her 83-year-old mother.
“We can’t get out because the floodwaters are now higher than people.”
ABC-CBN TV network reported receiving frantic calls from people whose relatives were trapped in the deluge, many without food. They included a pregnant woman with a baby who wanted to be rescued from a roof and about 55 people who scrambled to the third floor of a Quezon City house as water rose below them.
Vehicles and even heavy trucks struggled to navigate water-clogged roads, where hundreds of thousands of commuters were stranded. Many cars were stuck in the muddy waters.
The government suspended work and school classes yesterday, a policy which will continue today. Although some shopping centres opened with limited grocery supplies, they were quickly picked up by shoppers who waited in long lines for the chance to stock up.
The La Mesa dam, which supplies water to the capital of 12 million people, spilled excess water early yesterday into the rivers flowing into Quezon City, as well as the neighbourhoods of Malabon, Valenzuela and Caloocan, where several villages were submerged.
Along the swollen Marikina River, nearly 20,000 residents have been moved away from the riverbanks but many others asked to be rescued. The local mayor pleaded for patience and said overwhelmed rescue teams would try to reach everyone.
President Benigno Aquino III called an emergency meeting of Cabinet officials and disaster-response agencies. He ordered officials to make sure all residents were accounted for in flooded villages and discussed how to help hospitals stay operational.
The Philippine Stock Exchange, which lies in the flooded financial district of Makati, was also closed.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: North west