x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Thousands flee Philippines flooding

Nearly a month's worth of rain falls in six hours on the Philippine capital, stranding thousands on rooftops in the city.

MANILA, PHILIPPINES // Nearly a month's worth of rain fell in just six hours today on the Philippine capital, stranding thousands on rooftops in the city and elsewhere as Tropical Storm Ketsana slammed ashore. The government declared a "state of calamity" in metropolitan Manila and about two dozen storm-hit provinces, said the defence secretary Gilberto Teodoro, who heads the National Disaster Co-ordinating Council.

That allows officials to withdraw emergency money for relief and rescue. Nearly 2,000 people were evacuated in Manila and surrounding areas, a disaster council report said. The mayor of Cainta in nearby Rizal province, who was stranded on a lorry on a road that was neck-deep in water, told ABS-CBN television by phone that many residents climbed onto roofs to escape. "The whole town is almost 100 per cent underwater," the mayor Mon Ilagan said.

About 34.1cm of rain fell over metropolitan Manila in just six hours, close to the 39.2cm average for the entire month of September, said the forecaster Vic Manalo with the government weather bureau. He blamed the downpour on thick rain clouds brought by Tropical Storm Ketsana, which packed 85 kph winds with gusts of up to 100 kph when it hit land earlier today about 80km north-east of Manila. It was moving westward toward the rice-producing Central Luzon region at 19 kph.

A dozen flights in and out of the central and northern Philippines were cancelled because of poor visibility, airport officials said. Hundreds of vehicles were stalled in flooded streets around the capital, and nearly 2,000 passengers were stranded in ports in several provinces south of Manila after the coastguard suspended ferry operations. The rains also caused the water in two dams near Manila to rise to spilling levels, the national disaster agency said. It said water was waist-deep in some communities in northern Bulacan province after one dam overflowed.

Power distributor Meralco cut off electric service to some flooded areas in metropolitan Manila to prevent accidents. * AP