Floods shut down Philippine capital and nearby provinces, 3 killed and thousands evacuated

Torrential monsoon rains worsened by a tropical storm flooded large swathes of the Philippine capital and nearby provinces Friday, leaving at least three people dead and displacing tens of thousands just days after the region was drenched by a typhoon.

MANILA, Philippines — Torrential monsoon rains worsened by a tropical storm flooded large swathes of the Philippine capital and nearby provinces Friday, leaving at least three people dead and displacing tens of thousands just days after the region was drenched by a typhoon.

Authorities said more than half a million residents of Metro Manila and other provinces were affected in severely inundated communities. At least 37,000 people in the capital were displaced in one of the worst floods in the sprawling metropolis of 12 million in recent years.

Over 2,700 people in nearby provinces were also displaced by the floods, said Civil Defence chief Alex Pama.

In the central Philippines, a wooden ferry which left Cebu without coast guard clearance capsized in stormy weather and high waves. All 55 people on board were rescued, coast guard Seaman 1st Class Joy Dayon said.

The Philippine Red Cross said a man drowned in Caloocan City and the Office of Civil Defence reported that a 2-year-old girl drowned in nearby Quezon City. A radio report quoting local officials in Rizal province said the body of a 68-year-old woman was recovered after she was swept away by floodwaters.

In some areas, water engulfed the first floor of homes, sending residents scrambling to upper floors and onto roofs.

The rain and an unrelated radar malfunction combined to divert, delay or cancel dozens of domestic and international flights at Manila’s airport.

The widespread floods caused traffic gridlock across the metropolis.

Pama warned that even if the rain stopped Friday night, “it’s possible that the waters from the mountain would start coming down to our rivers” and cause more flooding.

Water from a dam just north of the capital also started to spill into a river that runs through some densely populated areas, threatening to inundate more villages, officials said.

Government forecasters said nearly a month’s worth of rain fell overnight as people slept, trapping many in their flooded homes.

Officials were already on heightened alert because of the continuing gentle eruption of Mayon, the country’s most active volcano in Albay province east of Manila.

More than 26,000 people have been evacuated from high-risk communities around the volcano and there were concerns that rain could cause deadly volcanic mudflows. Clouds shrouded the peak of the 2,640-meter (8,712-foot) mountain but it was mostly sunny around the volcano on Friday.

Meteorologist Aldczar Aurelio said Tropical Storm Fung-Wong, which made landfall in northern Cagayan province with top winds of 100 kilometres (62.5 miles) per hour, enhanced the seasonal southwest monsoon winds and clouds from the Indian Ocean and Australia and dumped heavy rain over the capital area.

He said 268 millimeters (10.5 inches) of rain fell on the capital within a 24-hour period ending early Friday. The volume was more than half the amount of rainfall that caused massive flooding in the capital in 2009, the worst in 40 years.

Government offices in the capital and 15 provinces were closed and the Philippine Stock Exchange suspended trading.

Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said residents of a number of slum communities were evacuated to safety.

“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.”

Zharina Biong, an employee of the disaster management unit of Marikina City, part of Metro Manila, said more than 27,000 people, most of them living near the swollen Marikina River, were evacuated.

The storm was expected to leave Philippine territory by Sunday and make a sharp turn northward toward Taiwan and southern Japan.

Last week, Typhoon Kalmaegi hit the same northern Philippine region, leaving eight people dead and displacing over 366,000.

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