Philippine storm leaves 106 dead and missing; rescue effort intensifies in flooded villages

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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MANILA, Philippines - Many Filipino villagers managed to save only the clothes on their backs but began to rebuild Sunday as the flood waters receded from a tropical storm that set off the worst flooding in the Philippine capital in 42 years and left about 80 dead.
Army troops, police and civilian volunteers plucked dead bodies from muddy flood waters and rescued drenched survivors from rooftops after Tropical Storm Ketsana tore through the northern Philippines a day earlier, leaving at least 106 people dead and missing.
Some residents began to clean up as the flood waters receded. Still, many parts of the capital remained flooded. A brief period of sunshine showed the extent of the devastation in many neighbourhoods - destroyed houses, overturned vehicles, and roads covered in debris and mud.
Ketsana dumped more than a month's worth of rain in just 12 hours, causing the government to declare a "state of calamity" in metropolitan Manila and 25 storm-hit provinces. The declaration allowed officials to use emergency funds for relief and rescue.
The rains swamped entire towns and set off landslides that have left at least 83 people dead and 23 others missing, Defence Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said. Garbage-choked drains and waterways, along with high tide, compounded the flooding, officials said.
Governor Joselito Mendoza of Bulacan province, north of the capital, said it was tragic that "people drowned in their own houses" as the storm raged.
Meteorologists say the Philippines' location in the northwestern Pacific puts it right in the pathway of the world's No. 1 typhoon generator. Doomed by geography and hobbled by poverty, the Philippines has long tried to minimize the damage caused by the 20 or so typhoons that hit the sprawling archipelago every year. Despite a combination of preparation and mitigation measures, high death tolls and destruction persist.
"We're back to zero," said Ronald Manlangit, a resident of Marikina city, a suburb of the capital, Manila. Floodwaters engulfed the ground floor of his home and drowned his TV set and other prized belongings. Still, he expressed relief that he managed to move his children to the second floor.
"Suddenly, all of our belongings were floating," the 30-year-old said. "If the water rose farther, all of us in the neighbourhood would have been killed."
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo toured the devastated areas and prodded villagers to move on. She said the storm and the flooding were "an extreme event" that "strained our response capabilities to the limit but ultimately did not break us."
TV footage shot from a military helicopter showed drenched survivors still marooned on top of half-submerged passenger buses and rooftops in suburban Manila Sunday. Some dangerously clung to high-voltage power lines while others plodded through waist-high waters.
In Marikina, a rescuer gingerly lifted the mud-covered body of a child from a boat. An Associated Press photographer saw rescuers carry away four other bodies, including that of a woman found in a church in a flooded neighbourhood.
Authorities deployed rescue teams on boats to save survivors.
More than 330,000 people were affected by storm, including some 59,000 people who were brought to about 100 schools, churches and other evacuation shelters, officials said. Troops, police and volunteers have so far been able to rescue more than 5,100 people, Teodoro said.
The 16.7 inches (42.4 centimetres) of rain that swamped metropolitan Manila in just 12 hours on Saturday exceeded the 15.4-inch (39.2-centimetre) average for all of September, chief government weather forecaster Nathaniel Cruz said. He said the rainfall also broke the previous record of 13.2 inches (33.4 centimetres), which fell in a 24-hour period in June 1967.
Ketsana, which packed winds of 53 miles per hour (85 kilometres) with gusts of up to 63 miles per hour (100 kilometres per hour), hit land early Saturday then roared across the main northern Luzon island toward the South China Sea.
It's the 15th of about 20 typhoons and storms that forecasters expect will lash the country this year.
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Associated Press writer Oliver Teves contributed to this report.

Organizations: Associated Press

Geographic location: MANILA, Philippines, Northern Philippines Marikina Bulacan Pacific Northern Luzon island South China Sea

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