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Philippine capital battles deadly floods

08 august 2012, 18:57
0
©AFP
©AFP
More than 800,000 people in and around the Philippine capital battled deadly floods Wednesday as more rain fell, with some slum dwellers stuck on shanty roofs and others wading through waist-deep water, AFP reports.

Monsoon rains that have pounded Manila for more than a week eased slightly overnight, but meteorologists reported that 80 percent of the megacity was under water and the bad weather would likely persist throughout the day.

"We can't say the worst is over yet," Gine Nievares, a hydrologist with the state weather service, told AFP. The death toll in Manila and nearby provinces stood at 16 including nine members of one family who died in a landslide.

The worst hit parts of Manila were mostly the poorest districts, where millions of slum dwellers have built homes along riverbanks, the swampy surrounds of a huge lake, canals and other areas susceptible to flooding.

In Santo Domingo, a creekside shantyown, mother-of-three Anita Alterano recounted how her family escaped the floods that had submerged their one-story home by walking over the roofs of houses until they reached high ground.

"We initially just decided to climb up on the roof where we were safe but wet. We waited for rescuers but it took so long for anyone to notice us," said Alterano, 43.

"So we got a rope, I tied myself to to my husband and my children, we clambered from roof-to-roof... until we reached a school. But the problem is we have no water and food."

Alterano spoke to AFP while wading through the waist-deep water trying to get back to their home to salvage some clothes and food, after leaving her family at the school-turned-evacuation centre.

Nearby, rescue workers from the local fire brigade tried to retrieve other residents still stranded on their roofs. But the fire brigade had only one, non-motorised aluminium dinghy.

Across Manila and surrounding areas, more than 800,000 people had sought help from rescue workers, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Nearly 250,000 of them were sheltering in schools, gymnasiums and other buildings that have been turned into evacuation centres, while others were staying with relatives and friends, the council said.

However, after much of the city was paralysed on Tuesday, the government ordered government and private sector employees back to work.

"Even as the situation remains of concern for so many citizens affected by the rain and flooding, it is imperative that we begin returning to normalcy as soon as possible," presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

"This requires government workers to report to their offices to continue, and accelerate, efforts at rescue, relief, and rehabilitation."

Sixteen people were confirmed killed in the latest barrage of rain that began on Monday.

In the worst reported incident, nine people from the same family died on Tuesday in a landslide on a mountainous area near the city's main reservoir that is populated by thousands of mainly illegal squatters.

"They were buried alive. It happened suddenly. We heard a crash, and then people crying out in pain," Honeyleta Ibrega, a neighbour of the landslide victims, told AFP.

One of the dead was a three-week-old baby, according to the disaster council.

Tuesday's deaths brought the number of people killed by the monsoon rains across the Philippines since late July to 69, according to authorities.

The Philippines endures about 20 major storms or typhoons each rainy season, many of which are deadly.

But this week's floods in Manila, a sprawling city of 15 million people, were the worst since 2009, when tropical storm Ketsana killed more than 460 people.

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