Philippines storm death toll nears 100


Manila : Nearly 100 people were killed as tropical storm Ketsana battered a wide area in the Philippines, dumping record rainfall on the capital that caused the worst flooding in 40 years, officials said Sunday.

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Fifty people were also missing in floods and landslides following rains that exceeded what Hurricane Katrina dumped on New Orleans in August 2005, local officials and military spokesmen said.

Authorities rushed rescue and relief efforts to thousands of people who spent the night on the roofs of submerged houses in Manila and surrounding provinces. Some were trapped in their cars on flooded streets.

Defence Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said soldiers and volunteers rescued more than 5,000 drenched people from rooftops as the weather improved and floods receded in affected municipalities on Sunday.

“Our target is to finish the rescue operations before dark today,” he said. “We have mobilized our air assets to find the people who need help and direct our forces there. We will continue our rescue operations until everyone that needs help is reached.”

The US government dispatched a helicopter and additional rubber boats to help in the rescue operations. Various UN agencies also donated funds to assist relief operations.

Rizal province east of Manila was one of the worst hit. One municipality in the province, Cainta, was almost completely submerged in floodwaters and still unreachable on Sunday.

At least 56 people died in floods in the province, provincial Governor Casimiro Ynares III said.

“Forty-five are still missing,” he said. “We really need more rubber boats. We can’t get through roads that are flooded. In some areas, the roads are blocked by stranded vehicles.”

Lieutenant Colonel Noel Detoyato, a civil military operations officer, said soldiers recovered 30 bodies in the town of Tanay alone in Rizal. The other fatalities drowned in the towns of Angono, Baras, Rodriguez, Teresa and San Mateo.

At least 11 people drowned in the Manila suburb of Marikina. The bodies were laid out on the streets as rescuers struggled to reach some isolated areas.

Thirty more people either drowned, were electrocuted, buried in landslides, struck by fallen trees and collapsed walls or suffered a heart attack in Manila, as well as the provinces of Laguna, Batangas, Quezon, Cavite and Apayao.

Detoyato said the fatalities in Laguna included two soldiers and three government militiamen who were dispatched to rescue flood victims in Pami town.

“The ill-fated team rescued more than 20 people before they were swept away by the strong current,” he said. “Two other militiamen were missing.”

The weather bureau said the rainfall recorded Saturday in Manila was the capital’s heaviest since 1967.

Nilo Prisco, head of the weather bureau, said the storm dumped 410.6 mm of rain in Manila in just nine hours, which was almost double the rainfall brought about by Hurricane Katrina.

The amount also exceeded the average monthly rainfall of 391 millimetres and the 1967 record of 331 millimetres.

“We can only attribute this to climate change,” Prisco said.

School classes in all levels were suspended for tomorrow (Monday) in Manila and the affected provinces to allow unhampered relief operations.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council said more than 290,000 people were affected by Ketsana, which has strengthened as it moved away from the Philippines. More than 47,000 were in evacuation centres, it added.

The weather bureau said the storm was packing maximum winds of 105 km per hour (kmph) and gusts of up to 135 kmph. It was moving west-north-west at 24 kmph towards the South China Sea.