'Habagat' leaves 49 dead; massive clean-up begins-A A +A
Thursday, August 9, 2012
MANILA (Updated) -- Thousands of Filipinos shoveled muck and debris from flood-ravaged homes, shops and roads under a shining sun Thursday after nearly two weeks of nonstop rains shut down the capital, killed 49 people, and forced thousands to flee from the deluge.
More than two million people were affected by Manila's worst flooding since 2009, and most of the deaths recorded were due to drowning, said the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC). More than half of the sprawling metropolis of 12 million was submerged at the peak, and schools and offices have been closed for days.
On Thursday, as the rain finally stopped, residents began to fix disheveled homes and stores in flood-hit communities that resembled a wasteland littered with mud-caked garbage.
Some of the displaced in still-crowded evacuation centers have begun to trickle back to neighborhoods, where floodwaters have subsided, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman said.
More than 580,000 people, however, remained in hundreds of evacuation centers in Manila and outlying provinces.
"We were totally washed out," said Rudy Aquino, a flower shop owner along Araneta Avenue, where more than three meters (10 feet) of rampaging floodwaters swamped everything and carried all sorts of trash and even a wayward cargo truck.
Aquino, whose shop also was hit by the more massive flashflood in 2009, 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 Thursday 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.
Minerva Mercader, a beauty parlor worker, said she and her children had returned to their house near a river in suburban Quezon City when the weather cleared Wednesday, only to rush back to a Roman Catholic church when the waters rose again.
"I got scared because the sky was so dark and there was this downpour," said Mercader, who was dripping wet from the rain as she stepped into Santo Domingo Church with her three children.
The 49 deaths reported since Sunday included 10 people killed in a landslide in Quezon City and several who drowned in outlying provinces.
Deaths due to drowning were reported in the cities of Caloocan, Valenzuela, and Malabon, as well as in the provinces of Pampanga, Zambales, Bulacan, Bataan, Batangas, Rizal and Romblon.
Classes were suspended this week as cities declared a state of calamity, and government offices were slowly reopening. The United States Embassy remained closed Thursday.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), however, lifted Thursday the rainfall warning in Metro Manila, signifying better conditions this coming weekend.
Pagasa posted the good news on microblogging site Twitter at 12:20 p.m., two hours after it only recorded light to moderate rainfall (1-7 millimeters per hour).
The effects of the flooding brought by the southwest monsoon, however, prompted 17 affected local government units (LGUs) to declare a state of calamity to facilitate the use of funds for relief and rehabilitation efforts.
These LGUs include Manila, Marikina, Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela, Muntinlupa, San Juan, Pasig, Pasay, Caloocan, Pateros in the National Capital Region (NCR); Bataan, Pampanga, Zambales and Bulacan in Central Luzon; Laguna in Calabarzon and Palawan (limited to Culion, El Nido and Linacapan) in Mimaropa.
In Taguig, Mayor Lani Cayetano asked city councilors to immediately approve her recommendation to place the city under state of calamity. The City Council is scheduled to hold a special session on Friday for this purpose.
Eighteen out of the 28 Taguig villages were submerged in water. Even the city hall in Tuktukan village was swamped in two-feet flood.
All Thursday classes, from pre-school to postgraduate, in the NCR, and the provinces of Zambales, Bataan, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, and Rizal were suspended based on Memorandum Circular 34 issued by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa.
Local governments of Quezon City and Marikina extended this class suspension to Friday.
Work in all courts in Metro Manila including the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan and Court of Tax Appeals was also suspended.
Employees at the Senate were also ordered not to report to duty. (AP/Virgil Lopez/Emmanuel Louis Bacani/Sunnex)