x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

No respite from Manila's worst deluge in years

Thousands of Filipinos shovelled muck and debris from flood-ravaged homes, shops and roads under a shining sun yesterday after nearly two weeks of non-stop rain shut down the capital and forced hundreds of thousands to flee from the deluge.

Residents queue for relief goods at an evacuation centre in Marikina, Manila.
Residents queue for relief goods at an evacuation centre in Marikina, Manila.

MANILA, Philippines // Thousands of Filipinos shovelled muck and debris from flood-ravaged homes, shops and roads under a shining sun yesterday after nearly two weeks of non-stop rain shut down the capital and forced hundreds of thousands to flee from the deluge.

At least 49 people died and more than two million people were affected by Manila's worst flooding since 2009. More than half of the sprawling metropolis of 12 million was submerged at the peak, and schools and offices have been closed for days.

Under a hot sun yesterday as the rain finally stopped, residents began to fix dishevelled homes and stores in flood-hit communities that resembled a wasteland littered with mud-caked rubbish. Some of the displaced in still-crowded evacuation centres have begun to trickle back to neighbourhoods, where floodwaters have subsided, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman said, but more than 314,000 people remained in hundreds of evacuation centres in Manila and outlying provinces.

"We were totally washed out," said Rudy Aquino, a flower shop owner along Araneta Avenue, where more than three metres of rampaging floodwaters swamped everything and carried all sorts of trash and even a wayward cargo lorry.

Mr Aquino, whose shop also was hit by the more massive flash flood in 2009, said he was moving to a safer location when the deluge engulfed his business on Tuesday and again late Wednesday when floodwaters rose again. As he tried to rise from the latest onslaught, a fresh supply of red orchids arrived at his shop yesterday as he and staff were cleaning up.

Even though the weather has cleared, the government was busy with rescue and relief work in the worst-hit areas, especially along swollen rivers and coastal communities. In hard-hit Marikina city in the capital, rescuers on rubber boats floated down still-flooded streets to reach thousands of residents marooned in submerged houses along the Marikina River.

After the rains stopped, thousands of shoppers descended on grocery stores to stack up on food and other supplies.

The flooding has rattled the nerves of tens of thousands of people who had to be evacuated for the second time in as many days after returning home during a brief respite of dry weather early Wednesday.

"They are hard-headed. Now that the waters are high again, they got scared and they are calling us to be rescued," said police Senior Inspector Abner Perdosa, who led a team of rescuers in orange shirts helping residents across waist-deep muddy waters into government-run shelters.