Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Wrath of Habagat

More than two million people in and around the Philippine capital battled deadly floods Wednesday, August 8 amid relentless monsoon rains, with neck-deep waters trapping slum dwellers and the wealthy on roofs.

Sixty per cent of Manila remained under water and vast tracts of surrounding farmland were also submerged as the deluge "Habagat" (West Monsoon), or the seasonal reversing wind accompanied by changes in precipitation stretched into its third day. The roads in some areas are like rivers. People have to use boats to move around. All the roads and alleys are flooded after surveying the megacity of 15 million people from the air.

Aerial view of the massive floodings

60% of Metropolitan Manila area was under flood water

The death toll from the week's rain in Manila and nearby provinces rose to 20 on Wednesday after four more people drowned. This brought the confirmed number of people killed across the country since a typhoon triggered heavy rains in late July to 62.

State weather forecasters PAGASA said more than 70 centimeters (27 inches) of rain -- well over the average for all of August -- had fallen in 48 hours, and warned of more to come overnight Wednesday.

70 centimeters of rain had fallen in less than 48 hours

Water level level at the La Mesa Dam, Quezon City reaches
spilling level on Monday following a night of heavy rains

Waist-deep waters sorround the Manila City Hall
as rains continueswithout let-up on Tuesday 

The worst hit parts of Manila were mostly the poorest districts, where millions of slum dwellers have built homes along riverbanks, the swampy surrounds of a huge lake, canals and other areas susceptible to flooding.

Some of Manila's richest districts were also affected, including the riverside community of Provident Village in Marikina City where water had inundated the ground floors of three-storey mansions.

Inside the gated village of about 2,000 homes, rescue workers on a motorized rubber boat drove past submerged luxury cars to retrieve children and the elderly from rooftops.

Across Manila and surrounding areas, 1.23 million people were affected by the floods, 850,000 of whom had to flee their submerged homes, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Nearly 250,000 of them were sheltering in schools, gymnasiums and other buildings that have been turned into evacuation centers, while others were staying with relatives and friends, the council said.

Pedestrians braving the waist-deep flooded street

Rescue team plucking pedestrians in the neck-deep flood

A government worker reported that the biggest problem for the relief effort was getting enough volunteers to deliver food, water and other emergency supplies.

The Philippines endures about 20 major storms or typhoons each rainy season, many of which are deadly.

But this week's floods in Manila were the worst in the capital since 2009, when Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy) killed more than 460 people.

The typhoons and storms typically start in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean, and then roar west towards the Philippines and onwards to other parts of Southeast Asia, or further north to Taiwan, mainland China and Japan.

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