Philippine storm leaves 106 dead and missing

September 27, 2009 8:26:56 AM PDT
Rescuers plucked bodies from muddy floodwaters and saved drenched survivors from rooftops Sunday after a tropical storm tore through the northern Philippines and left at least 106 people dead and missing. It was the region's worst flooding in more than four decades. The government declared a "state of calamity" in metropolitan Manila and 25 storm-hit provinces.

Tropical Storm Ketsana roared across the northern Philippines on Saturday, dumping more than a month's worth of rain in just 12 hours. The resulting landslides and flooding have left at least 83 people dead and 23 others missing, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said.

Many parts of the capital remained flooded Sunday, although waters were fast receding.

TV footage shot from military helicopter showed drenched survivors still marooned on top of half-submerged passenger buses and rooftops in the suburbs of Manila. Some dangerously clung on high-voltage power lines while others plodded through waist-high flood waters.

Authorities deployed rescue teams on boats to save survivors sighted during the aerial check.

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.

The "state of calamity" declaration allowed officials to utilize emergency funds for relief and rescue.

Teodoro said that so far, army troops, police and civilian volunteers have rescued more than 5,100 people.

Many residents lost all their belongings in the storm, but were thankful they were alive.

"We're back to zero," said Marikina resident Ronald Manlangit. Still he expressed relief that he managed to move all his children to the second floor of his house Saturday as floodwaters engulfed the ground floor.

Mud covered everything -- cars, the road and vegetables in a public market near Manlangit's house.

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.

The most recently reported fatalities included nine people in Bulacan, most of them drowned. A landslide in northern Pampanga province killed 12 villagers. An army soldier and four militiamen drowned while trying to rescue villagers in southern Laguna province.

In the city of Marikina near Manila, a rescuer gingerly lifted the mud-covered body of a child from a boat. Rescuers carried away four other bodies, including that of a woman found in a church, after a search in a flooded neighborhood, an AP photographer saw.

Distress calls and e-mails from thousands of residents in metropolitan Manila and their worried relatives flooded TV and radio stations overnight. Ketsana swamped entire towns, set off landslides and shut down Manila's airport for several hours.

"My son is sick and alone. He has no food and he may be waiting on the roof of his house. Please get somebody to save him," a weeping housewife, Mary Coloma, told radio DZBB.

The sun shone briefly in Manila on Sunday and showed the extent of devastation in many neighborhoods -- destroyed houses, overturned vans and cars, and streets and highways covered in debris and mud.

The 16.7 inches (42.4 centimeters) of rain that swamped metropolitan Manila in just 12 hours on Saturday exceeded the 15.4-inch (39.2-centimeter) average for all of September, chief government weather forecaster Nathaniel Cruz said, adding that the rainfall broke the previous record of 13.2 inches (33.4 centimeters) in a 24-hour period in June 1967.

Garbage-choked drains and waterways, along with high tide, compounded the problem, officials said.

Ketsana, which packed winds of 53 mph (85 kph) with gusts of up to 63 mph (100 kph), hit land early Saturday then roared across the main northern Luzon island toward the South China Sea.

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