Worst floods in Metro in years

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    Fleeing homes. Residents of Marikina City brave flood waters to evacuate to higher grounds while inset photos (from left) show enterprising men fishing valuables, in this case a refrigerator, from raging waters at the Marikina bridge; a rescue team aboard a rubber craft checking out a submerged car and kids enjoying a flooded street in Mandaluyong while rescue teams are busy at work. PHOTOS BY ROLLY SALVADOR, RHOY COBILLA AND REUTERS

    LIKE scenes from typhoon “Ondoy” 11 years ago, people yesterday pleaded to be rescued, most of them stranded for hours on the roofs of their houses as floodwaters rose rapidly overnight.

    Yesterday’s floods in Metro Manila and nearby provinces were triggered by typhoon “Ulysses,” the 21st cyclone to hit the country this year, and which battered areas still reeling from super typhoon “Rolly.”

    Ulysses also left seven persons dead in Camarines Sur, Cavite, Benguet, and Isabela provinces.

    Nearly three million households in and around Manila were without power as people waded through waist-high floods, carrying valuables and pets.

    Coast guards had to swim in flood waters as high as electricity poles, while rescue workers used rubber boats and makeshift floats to carry children and the elderly to safety.

    Big waves and strong winds in Manila Bay budged a tanker, damaging a bridge.

    Marikina City Mayor Marcelino Teodoro said winds from Ulysses knocked down power lines and some 40,000 homes in the city were either fully or partially submerged.

    As of yesterday afternoon, rescue operations were ongoing, especially in the worst-hit Marikina City. Marcelino said the flooding was worse than brought about by Ondoy.

    The water level in the Marikina River reached 21.8 meters as of 9 a.m. yesterday, breaching the 21.5-meter level during Ondoy which flooded a number of regions in Luzon and the Visayas in September 2009.

    Teodoro called the situation “overwhelming” and Ulysses as the worst since a typhoon flooded large swathes in 2009.

    “The local government cannot handle this,” Teodoro said, requesting motorized boats and airlifts.

    In some areas east of Manila, residents took refuge on top of their flooded homes.

    “Just a few steps remaining on our third floor and we have yet to see any rescuer,” Carla Mhaye Suico, a resident in Pasig City, told dzBB radio, while sheltering on her roof with 15 family members and neighbors.

    Arlyn Rodriguez, a resident in Marikina City, told dzMM radio station she was awaiting rescue with 20 others, mostly children and elderly after the floods rose quickly.

    In other parts of Manila, people waded through waist-high floods, carrying valuables and pets, while rescue workers ferried residents around in boats.

    Weather specialist Benny Estareja said the soil was already saturated due to recent typhoons, contributing to the massive flooding from Ulysses.

    Weather specialist Ariel Rojas said rains from Ulysses from 8 a.m. Wednesday to 8 a.m. yesterday measured only 153 mm, compared to Ondoy’s 455 mm.

    Ulysses made three landfalls in Quezon — first in Patnanugan town at around 10:30 p.m.

    Wednesday, then in Burdeos in Quezon at around 11:20 p.m. and finally in General Nakar, Quezon at around 1:40 a.m.

    Ulysses is already in the West Philippine Sea. It was some 200 km west of Iba, ZamWest of Iba, Zambales as of 4 p.m yesterday.

    Ulysses is forecast to exit the Philippine area of responsibility this morning.

    Teodoro said water level at the Marikina River reached 22 meters at the height of the rains.

    “Mas mataas pa sa record ng water level nung bagyong Ondoy (It was higher that the recorded water level during Ondoy,” he said.

    Marikina was also severely affected by Ondoy, flooding most parts of the city. Ondoy left 464 people dead and P11 billion damage to infrastructure and agriculture and affected nearly five million people.

    Teodoro said they were expecting the water level to rise to just about 18 meters. He said they were surprised because the river water level continued to rise even as the rains eased.

    He said the floodwater apparently came from upland areas. “Marikina is a downstream community, so they probably came from higher areas,” he said.

    “Huge damage. Totally flooded villages, low-lying areas flooded, blown off structures,” said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, concurrent chairman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMNC).

    Interior Secretary Eduardo Año reported floodings in Metro Manila, and in the towns of Montalban, San Mateo and Cainta in Rizal. He assured residents are staying on roofs help is on the way.

    AFP Joint Task Force National Capital Region commander Brig. Gen. Marceliano Teofilo, who is leading search and rescue operations in Metro Manila, said floods were also reported in Quezon City and Pasig City.

    “The coverage is quite big.. .These are the same areas that were flooded by Ondoy because these are low-lying areas,” he said.

    Bulacan Gov. Daniel Fernando said roof-level floods were reported in Marilao town. He said some areas in San Miguel, San Rafael, San Ildefonso, Sta Maria, Meycauayan and Bocaue were also flooded.

    Fernando surmised the release of water from Bustos Dam, or the Angat Afterbay Regulator Dam, contributed to the flooding.

    AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the military deployed assets to conduct rescue operations. However, he said, they cannot respond to all requests for rescue due to limited resources.

    In Provident Village in Marikina City, he said, streets were submerged.

    Weather permitting, he said, the military will deploy helicopters to help in the search and rescue operations.

    In Quezon, Arevalo said landslides were reported in the towns of Real, Infanta and General Nakar. He said troops from the Army’s 1st Infantry Battalion are conducting road clearing operations.

    The Office of Civil Defense-Bicol Region said floods were reported in 37 towns in the region.

    The OCD-Calabarzon said floods were reported in 11 local government units in Quezon, Rizal and Laguna. It said 5,832 families or 19,391 persons were evacuated in the region.

    The OCD-Central Luzon said five roads in Aurora, Nueva Ecija, and Pampanga are not passable to any types of vehicles due to debris. He said the Department of Public Works and Highways is clearing the road. It said 3,529 families or 73,945 person were evacuated ahead of Ulysses impact.

    Two of the seven fatalities are from Camarines Norte, said the Office of Civil Defense in the Bicol region. They were Avelino Cabanela, 68, who was found lifeless on the roof of his house in Daet town, and Salva Mangubat, 70, of Talisay town who slipped.

    Police said farmer Felix Boguite, 60, of Atok, Benguet died after he was hit by uprooted bamboo trees.

    In Cavite, three died when a warehouse of the Polytechnique Manufacturing Inc. in Dasmarinas town collapsed, said OCD-Calabarzon spokesman Alex Masiglat. Another worker was rescued.

    Masiglat said two of the fatalities are workers while the third is a child of one of the fatalities.

    Masiglat said they are further verifying if the death of the three can be attributed to Ulysses because the winds and rain were not that strong at the time.

    In Isabela, police said construction worker Mark Angelo Atabug drowned in Jones town.

    Atabug is one of the workers constructing a mini dam in the area. – With Reuters