By Calvin Palmer
The worst floods for 40 years in the Philippines has left at least 140 people dead and another 32 missing.
Tropical Storm Ketsana dumped more than one month’s rain in just 12 hours on Saturday, resulting in landslides, flooding and the destruction of homes.
The government declared a “state of calamity” in metropolitan Manila and 25 storm-hit provinces, allowing officials to use emergency funds for relief and rescue.
Defence Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said 32 people were officially missing, and that troops, police and civilian volunteers had so far rescued more than 7,900 people.
The storm forced morte than 430,000 people to flee their homes, including some 115,000 people who sought shelter in 200 schools, churches and other evacuation shelters.
“People drowned in their own houses,” as the storm raged, said Gov Joselito Mendoza of Bulacan province, north of the capital.
“We’re back to zero,” said Ronald Manlangit, a 30-year-old resident of the Manila suburb of Marikina. 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,” Malangit said. “If the water rose farther, all of us in the neighborhood would have been killed.”
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo toured devastated areas yesterday and said the storm and the flooding were “an extreme event” that “strained our response capabilities to the limit but ultimately did not break us”.
The 16.7 inches (42.4 cm) of rain that swamped metropolitan Manila in just 12 hours on Saturday exceeded the 15.4-inch (39.2-cm) 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 cm), which fell in a 24-hour period in June 1967.
Ketsana, with winds gusting up to 63 mph (100 kph), hit land early Saturday then roared across the main northern Luzon island toward the South China Sea.