Some of the Philippines’ heaviest rains on record fell on the capital city of Manila and surrounding areas this week, turning roads into rivers and trapping people in homes and shelters. The government suspended all work for a second day, except for rescues and disaster response.
At least seven people are dead and tens of thousands have evacuated their homes, bringing life in many areas to a standstill. All throughout the sprawling, low-lying capital region of 12 million people, floodwaters made most of the roads impassable and reached waist- or neck-deep along rivers and creeks.
The flooding followed two nights of heavy monsoon rains, enhanced by Tropical Storm Trami. The storm hovered over the North Philippine Sea and drenched the main northern island of Luzon with up to 30 millimeters (just over an inch) of rain per hour. It is forecasted to move away from the Philippines toward Taiwan on Wednesday.
In many coastal towns along swollen Lake Laguna, near Manila, and in food-growing riverside provinces, residents were trapped on rooftops, and had to wade through the streets or drift on makeshift rafts. Many chose to stay close to their homes for fear they would be looted if they left. Floodwaters had subsided late Monday, but the night of pounding rains Tuesday night exacerbated the deluge. Flooding has become more frequent in Manila because of deforestation of mountains, clogged waterways and canals where large squatter communities live, and poor urban planning.
According to an assessment from the Department of Science and Technology, rainfall reached 600 mm (23.62 inches) in and around Manila Bay on Sunday alone. That’s compared to the disastrous 2009 Typhoon Ketsana, the strongest cyclone to hit Manila in modern history with 455 mm of rain in 24 hours.
In the chilly northern mountain town of Sagada, army troops and police on Monday rescued 29 tourists, including 13 Japanese, who were stranded for several hours inside a cave after two days of heavy rains caused a stream at the entrance to swell, Office of Civil Defense official Andrew Alex Uy said. One Filipino tourist remained missing.