Floods Shut Down Metro

MANILA, Philippines (Sept 20, 2014) — Torrential rain brought by the southwest monsoon and boosted by Tropical Storm Mario (international name Fung-Wong) flooded many parts of Metro Manila yesterday, shutting down schools, shops and government offices, and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands.

A three-year-old toddler in Quezon City was one of two fatalities recorded as of last night. The other was a 34-year-old man who reportedly drowned after falling into floodwaters from the second floor of his shanty also in Quezon City.

There were unconfirmed reports that a University of Santo Tomas medical student died after accidentally coming into contact with a dangling live wire outside the university.

Marikina, where an overflowing river forced hundreds out of their homes, was placed under a state of calamity to hasten relief and evacuation operations.

Residents were evacuated early yesterday from severely inundated communities, some with rapidly flowing waters that rose up to five feet.

Radio stations reported residents taking shelter on the second floor of homes where the water had reached the ceiling of the ground floor.

Flooded streets caused traffic gridlock in many parts of Metro Manila, with motorists unaware of the extent of the flooding due to a lack of reports from local authorities.

Malacañang, through Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., announced the suspension of classes and government offices in Metro Manila and in 15 provinces at around 6:30 a.m.

Trade Undersecretary Victorio Mario Dimagiba said in a text message a price freeze would be in effect for 60 days in areas under a state of calamity unless lifted by concerned local government units.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said red rainfall warning – the highest in the three-stage rainfall alert system – was up over Metro Manila, Rizal, Laguna and Bulacan as of noon yesterday.

Weather forecaster Dioni Sarmiento said more than 260 millimeters (10 inches) of rain fell over Metro Manila over a 24-hour period ending early yesterday.

That was more than half the amount of rain that caused massive flooding across the metropolis of 12 million people in September 2009 at the height of Tropical Storm Ondoy (Ketsana).

The storm also forced the suspension of House plenary deliberations on the proposed P2.606-trillion national budget for 2015.

In a text message, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said all agencies whose budgets were lined up for deliberations yesterday had been informed promptly of the work suspension.

“We just have to work much longer next week,” Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II said when asked about the possible delay in budget deliberations.

The Manila Electric Co. said it had to cut power in some areas for safety reasons.

“Electricity circuits are turned off in low-lying areas where there is severe flooding. There is a possibility that affected electrical circuits may affect electricity supply in nearby areas where there is no visible flooding,” Meralco said in an advisory.

Saturday classes were suspended in the University of Santo Tomas, Far Eastern University, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Valenzuela, Malabon University, Philippine College of Criminology, San Sebastian College-Recoletos Manila, University of the Philippines-Manila (including office work), Technological University of the Philippines and Malabon Institute of Technology.

Clogged waterways

Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said some parts of the capital became flooded overnight and residents in a number of slum communities were evacuated to safety.

But he said floodwaters were receding fast because major drainage pipes had been cleared of trash before the rainy season. He did not say how many have been evacuated in the city.

“Our anti-flood infrastructure has been neglected for a long time,” Estrada said. “You go abroad and you see big houses of the rich along clean rivers. But here, the riverbanks teem with squatter colonies, which don’t have septic tanks and treat the river like a garbage can,” he said.

Residents of Baseco, Parola and Isla Puting Bato and those living near the boundary of San Juan were forcibly evacuated as early as 6 a.m.

Floodwaters in some parts of Sta. Mesa, particularly V. Mapa street, reached neck-deep, forcing residents to make improvised boats from old refrigerators and bathtubs to evacuate.

Several commuters were seen stranded at the LRT station on V. Mapa.

Taft Avenue, Quirino Avenue, Ermita, Malate, Sta. Cruz, Quezon Boulevard, España, Sampaloc, Sta. Mesa, Nagtahan, Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard, Roxas Boulevard and Tondo were not passable to light vehicles earlier yesterday due to floods.

But someone’s misery is another’s opportunity. Pedicab drivers made a killing yesterday, charging commuters as much as P100 to P150 to ferry them across flooded streets to their destinations.

Forced evacuation

In Marikina City, Mayor Del de Guzman ordered the forced evacuation of residents in low-lying barangays after the water level at the Marikina River reached 19.2 meters as early as 8 a.m. yesterday. Classes remain suspended in all levels in the city today. City workers involved in relief and rescue are required to report for work, however.

The eight floodgates at the Manggahan Floodway in Pasig City were opened to ease the flow of water into the Marikina River.

Zharina Biong, a staffer of the disaster management unit of Marikina City, said more than 27,000 people, most of them living near the swollen Marikina River, have been evacuated since dawn yesterday.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said displaced families in the National Capital Region (NCR) totaled 10,288 or 37,263 individuals.

NDRRMC chief Alexander Pama said they were verifying reports of storm-related deaths. Local disaster officials said a three-year-old girl in Barangay Bagong Silangan, in Fairview, Quezon City identified as Althea Gaviola died of drowning.

The Gaviola family were evacuating when she fell into a swollen creek. The victim’s father managed to pull her out from the floodwaters and rush her to East Avenue Medical Center where she died.

Pama said they were also checking reports from the Red Cross that two other people in Marikina and in Caloocan City had died during the onslaught of the storm.

There were also reports of landslide in Antipolo yesterday morning.

He also appealed to residents of communities near the Marikina River to leave for safer ground. “Our latest monitoring on Marikina River is quite alarming,” Pama said.

“I am now calling on those who are living near these river tributaries to be conscious of their own safety,” Pama said.

Verifying deaths

The other drowning fatality in Quezon City was identified as JayR Taganas, 34, of Barangay Apolonio Samson.

Elmo San Diego, head of the city government’s Department of Public Order and Safety, said they also received reports that a man was carried away by raging floodwaters in Barangay Pasong Tamo.

San Diego said the Quezon City villages severely affected by the flood were Barangays Bagong Silangan, Tatalon, Doña Imelda and Roxas district.

“We had been warning them since last (Thursday) night but many refused to leave their homes. It was only in the morning that they decided to evacuate,” San Diego said.

“The refusal of the residents in flood-prone areas made the rescue and emergency operation more difficult. It also put the lives of rescuers in peril,” he said.

Floodwaters had risen to as high as eight feet in some parts of the city like on Araneta Ave. and Kaliraya Street, according to Quezon City Police District director Chief Superintendent Richard Albano.

Local authorities in Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela (CAMANAVA) also had to deal with residents who decided to evacuate only at the last minute.

As of 2 p.m. yesterday, close to 2,127 families in Caloocan, mostly from Barangays 160 and 163, were brought to different evacuation centers, 533 families or 2,129 individuals from Malabon were forcibly evacuated, and more than a thousand were taken to different schools and evacuation sites in Valenzuela.

Navotas suffered only minimal flooding in some main roads in the morning. Officials declared all roads passable by 3 p.m.

Traffic was stalled along Dagat-dagatan Avenue when floodwaters reached waist deep, especially near Tanigue street going to C-3 Road, the main thoroughfare leading to the Port Area in Manila.

The Northern Police District (NPD) headquarters was also flooded, rendering police vehicles useless and stranding a small number of personnel inside.

Malabon Mayor Antolin Oreta III and Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian were seen persuading their respective constituents living near the Tullahan River to go to the nearest evacuation centers as water began to spill in La Mesa Dam before noon.

Malabon public information office chief Bong Padua said they expected the number of evacuees to balloon “but we are prepared for any contingency.”

Saturday classes at the City of Malabon University, Malabon Polytechnic Institute, Navotas Polytechnic College and Gov. Andres Pascual College were suspended.

Valenzuela officials said they had received no reports of casualties or missing.

“Maybe because the residents are now aware about the efforts of their local governments and the city officials are prepared for calamities,” said Valenzuela police chief Senior Superintendent Rhoderick Armamento.

Mario, which packed winds of up to 100 kilometers per hour, made landfall in Sta. Ana, Cagayan province at around noon yesterday.

Mario is predicted to be at 216 northwest of Itbayat, Batanes this afternoon and at 499 km north northeast of Itbayat or outside the Philippine area of responsibility tomorrow afternoon.

Aldczar Aurelio of PAGASA said Metro Manila received nearly its entire average rainfall for September in just 12 hours.

The massive flooding happened exactly a week before the fifth anniversary of storm Ondoy.

On Sept. 26, 2009, Metro Manila and nearby provinces were submerged in floods after Ondoy dumped a month’s worth of rain – 455 mm – in one day. - PhilStar

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