MANILA,(GGS NEWS) : – Half of Manila was under water and 250,000 people fled their homes Tuesday as torrential rain paralysed the city, sweeping away houses, leaving residents stranded on rooftops and triggering a landslide.
At least 15 people were confirmed dead as the sprawling metropolis and nearby provinces suffered the most extensive floods since a typhoon that killed hundreds three years ago.
Schools, financial markets and most government and private offices were shut as key roadways in the capital — a city of some 15 million people — were submerged by waters that in some areas reached neck-deep.
“If we put it in a percentage, at least 50 percent of Metro Manila is flooded,” Gine Nievarez from the state weather service told AFP.
As local television flashed live footage of rampaging rivers carrying off houses and residents marooned on the roofs of their homes, President Benigno Aquino said the government was doing everything it could to help.
“Everybody who is supposed to do something is doing what he is supposed to do,” he told reporters after meeting with civil defence officials.
Bad weather from seasonal southwest monsoons has been pounding Manila and nearby areas for over a week. Meteorologists said the crisis in the capital came as over half a month’s rain fell on the city in 24 hours.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said that more than 800,000 people had been affected, with 18,600 in government evacuation centres and some 231,000 seeking refuge with friends or relatives.
Tuesday’s deaths brought the number of people killed by the monsoon rains across the Philippines to 68 over the past week, according to civil defence officials.
Nine people from the same family were killed when a landslide struck a slum in the north of the city, officials said.
“The rain softened the soil and four houses were buried,” said Maribel Mendoza of the local public safety office.
In nearby provinces also hit by floods, four people drowned in Bulacan and two were killed in Batangas.
Manila’s population includes millions of squatters, who were forced to flee the huge shantytowns lining rivers and sewers overnight for the safety of schools, gymnasiums and government buildings.
Rosario Brutas, a market vendor in Bacoor, a town south of Manila, said she and her husband woke to discover their home already partly submerged.
“We woke up before dawn to find our bed afloat,” the 32-year-old told AFP from a hospital courtyard where her family and their neighbours had taken refuge.
Army trucks hauled stranded residents from their homes, while power was turned off in some parts of the city as a precautionary measure with the waters seeping into electrical facilities, the city’s power distributor said.
Cora Agulan of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council 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.
The breadth and ferocity of the floods brought back memories of tropical storm Ketsana, which killed 464 people across the capital in September 2009.
Weather forecaster Glaiza Escullar told AFP the heavy rains were expected to persist until at least early Wednesday.
Flood levels were close to but still lower than during Ketsana, she said, when “the water buildup was more abrupt and therefore more dangerous”.