MANILA, Philippines // Rescuers stepped up their efforts in the northern Philippines on Sunday as the skies started to clear a day after a tropical storm tore through and left more than 70 people killed or missing in the worst flooding in more than four decades. The government declared a "state of calamity" in metropolitan Manila and 25 storm-hit provinces, allowing officials to utilize emergency funds for relief and rescue, the defense secretary, Gilbert Teodoro said. Army troops, police and civilian volunteers have rescued more than 4,000 people.
Tropical Storm Ketsana roared across the northern Philippines near Manila on Saturday, dumping more than a month's worth of rain in just 12 hours. The resulting landslides and flooding have left at least 51 people dead and 21 others missing, Mr Teodoro said. Distress calls and e-mails from thousands of residents in metropolitan Manila and their worried relatives flooded TV and radio stations overnight. Ketsana swamped entire towns, set off landslides and shut down Manila's airport for several hours.
Military chief Gen Victor Ibrado, accompanied by journalists, flew over several suburban Manila towns Sunday on board air force helicopters and saw many people still waiting to be rescued on roofs of their houses in flooded villages. "My son is sick and alone. He has no food and he may be waiting on the roof of his house. Please get somebody to save him," a weeping housewife, Mary Coloma, told radio DZBB. The sun shone briefly in Manila on Sunday and showed the extent of devastation in many neighborhoods - destroyed houses, overturned vans and cars, and streets and highways covered in debris and mud.
"The flooding was so grave it inundated many communities for the first time," said provincial disaster-response official Loel Malonzo of hilly Rizal province, where more than 40 people drowned or perished in landslides. "People were trapped in their houses. Some who tried to escape were swept away by the flood," Mr Malonzo told The Associated Press by telephone. The 42.4 centimetres of rain that swamped metropolitan Manila in just 12 hours on Saturday exceeded the 39.2-centimetre average for September, Mr Cruz said, adding that the rainfall broke the previous record of 33.4 centimetres in a 24-hour period in June 1967.
Garbage-choked drains and waterways, along with high tide, compounded the problem, officials said. ABS-CBN television showed a dramatic video of more than a dozen people perched on roofs of damaged houses being swept away by the suburban Marikina River. They smashed against the pillars of a bridge and were separated from each other in the rampaging river. It was unclear whether they were rescued.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had to take an elevated commuter train to the disaster council office to preside over a meeting Saturday because roads were clogged by vehicles stuck in the floodwaters. Ketsana, which packed winds of 85 kph with gusts of up to 100 kph, hit land early Saturday then roared across the main northern Luzon island toward the South China Sea. * AP