More than 800,000 people in and around the Philippine capital battled deadly floods Wednesday as more rain fell, with neck-deep waters trapping slum dwellers and the wealthy elite on rooftops.
Monsoon rains that have pounded Manila for more than a week eased slightly overnight, but the government said between 60 and 80 percent of the megacity was under water, and the bad weather was likely to persist throughout the day.
“The roads in some areas are like rivers. People have to use boats to move around. All the roads and alleys are flooded,” civil defense chief Benito Ramos 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 shantytown, 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 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.
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-motorized aluminium dinghy.
Even some of Manila’s richest districts were affected, including the riverside community of Provident where water had completely inundated the ground floors of three-story mansions.
Inside the gated village of about 2,000 homes, rescue workers on a motorised rubber boat drove past submerged luxury cars to retrieve children and the elderly from rooftops.
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.
But after much of the city was paralysed on Tuesday, the government ordered government and private sector employees back to work, while the stock market resumed trading.
Sixteen people were confirmed killed in the latest barrage of rain that began on Monday.
They 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 in the capital since 2009, when tropical storm Ketsana killed more than 460 people.
The typhoons and storms typically start in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean, then roar west towards the Philippines and onwards to other parts of southeast Asia, or further north to Taiwan, mainland China and Japan.
In China, authorities moved more than one million people out of the path of Typhoon Haikui before it slammed into the east coast on Wednesday morning.
China’s financial center Shanghai avoided a direct hit, but flights and some train services were suspended there and officials warned the biggest impact might be from rainfall later on Wednesday.
Haikui was the third typhoon to hit China in a week, with 23 people dying in the barrage of storms, according to Chinese state media.
[image via Agence France-Presse]