MANILA // Torrential rains brought the Philippine capital to a standstill yesterday, submerging some areas in waist-deep floodwaters and making streets impassable to vehicles while thousands of people across coastal and mountainous northern regions fled to emergency shelters.
The national disaster agency and local officials reported at least three people were dead, 11 injured and four missing.
The dead included a 5-year-old boy whose house was hit by a concrete wall that collapsed. Two of his adult relatives were injured.
Schools, offices, the stock exchange, courts and embassies were closed as the weather bureau placed metropolitan Manila - a sprawling area of 12 million people - under red alert. Officials from several flood-hit cities and provinces have announced that classes will remain suspended today.
"We are trying to save whatever we can. But it was so sudden," JR Pascual, a father-of-four, said as he tried to take the most important possessions from his home that was flooded up to his waist.
"My neighbour wasn't even able to get his car out."
Mr Pascual lives in a middle-class district of Cavite, a coastal area that is about 15 kilometres from the heart of Manila.
Roads from Cavite and other southern areas into the city were impassable, while some motorists who tried to get through the flooded streets were forced to abandon their cars.
The flooding followed a night of heavy rains brought by the monsoon, which was enhanced by Tropical Storm Trami. It hovered over the North Philippine Sea and drenched the main northern island of Luzon with up to 30 millimetres of rain per hour.
A government weather forecaster, Jori Loiz, said yesterday that Trami was 580 kilometres east of northern Itbayat island, crawling eastward at 7kph. It is expected to exit the Philippines by tomorrow or Thursday and move towards China.
He said heavy rains are expected to again drench metropolitan Manila and nearby provinces Monday night and advised residents in flood-prone areas to be on alert.
TV footage showed residents trapped on rooftops as raging floodwaters swept through Binan town on Lake Laguna, near Manila.
Flooding has become more frequent in Manila because of deforestation of mountains, clogged waterways and canals where large squatter communities live and poor urban planning.
In the northern mountain town of Sagada, army troops and police rescued 29 tourists, including 13 Japanese, who were stranded for several hours inside a cave after two days of heavy rains caused a stream at the entrance to swell, said Andrew Alex Uy, a civil defence office official. One Filipino tourist remained missing.
Several dams in Luzon were forced to open flood gates because of rising waters and thousands of residents downstream were told to move.
A landslide and floods shut down traffic on a major motorway leading out of Manila. In the outlying provinces of Cavite, Batangas and Ilocos Norte father north, local authorities said flash floods had forced thousands to take refuge in schools and other sturdy buildings.
Waters started receding in some parts of Manila and neighboring areas yesterday afternoon and roads were reopening.
Forecasters said the storm was expected to strengthen into a typhoon with winds of up to 120kph as it slowly moves away from the Philippines, passing just south of the Japanese island of Okinawa tomorrow.