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Floods overnight bring Metro Manila, nearby provinces to a halt Tuesday


MANILA, Aug 7 (PNA) –- Incessant rains overnight in the country’s capital and nearby provinces brought rampaging floodwaters Tuesday, sending these areas into an abrupt halt as officials ordered work in government and private offices suspended.

The floodwaters, rising to as high as 6 feet in some areas in the metropolis, have forced the immediate evacuation of residents, particularly those living along river and creek banks in the capital of more than 15 million people.

There is no tropical storm but the heavy rains from the southwest monsoon have transformed Metro Manila and nearby provinces due north an image of a breathing swamp.

At Camp Aguinaldo, President Benigno S. Aquino III met his Cabinet and ordered all local government units in floods-affected areas to conduct, through barangay or village chiefs, a "person by person" check.

"With so many areas flooded, you must check if some people have been overlooked [in the rescue]."

He appealed to people for understanding as regards problems hobbling the rescue, saying the government's helicopters cannot be used at the moment, owing to zero visibility and strong winds, leaving the brunt of rescue to water-borne units.

The military has so far deployed 200 rubber boats.

As Health Secretary Enrique Ona warned of a spike in diarrhea-related and water-borne diseases due to the impact of floods on potable water supply, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said the department will deploy portable water-treatment systems to hospitals having problems with water supply.

Major dams in Luzon have reached their spilling levels, and their gates have been opened to release water as the weather bureau warned of continuous torrential rainfall over Metro Manila and other areas.

The Philippine Astronomical Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) hydrological services said the following dams have released water:

Ipo dam in Bulacan: two gates at .275 meters each;

Ambuklao dam in Benguet: two gates at 1.5 meters each;

Binga dam in benguet: three gates at 2.5 meters each;

and San Roque dam in Pangasinan: two gates at 2 meters each.

Damage to infrastructure and agricultural crops have not been officially quantified, but disaster officials said this could run into hundreds of millions of pesos.

Thousands stranded in the metropolis waded through different levels -- waist-deep to neck-deep – of floodwaters to be able to get home while rains kept pounding the area and the nearby provinces north and south of the capital.

Civil defense officials said more than 20,000 have fled their homes by mid morning, many from the capital’s low-lying slums who rushed out of their tumble down settlements for safety in schools, gymnasiums and government buildings.

Others sought temporary shelter in homes of relatives.

The floodwaters in the metropolis have been aggravated by the La Mesa dam spillover and the high tide from Manila Bay.

Many of the main roads in Metro Manila, the educational and industrial center of this Southeast Asian archipelago, have become impassable for even high-floored buses, stranding thousands on the roads littered with debris, silt and other garbage heaps.

Officials, who projected rainfall for the next 24 hours, suspended classes from pre-school to graduate levels in the capital and nearby provinces as torrential rains from the southwest monsoon whipped a wide area of Luzon, where financial markets and most government offices were shut for the day.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, in a memorandum circular, ordered the cancellation of work in private offices in the Metro Manila, Zambales, Bataan, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal and Bulacan due to the harsh weather.

"Upon the recommendation of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) and in view of the continuing inclement weather brought about by southwest monsoon (habagat), work in government offices and classes in college level in the National Capital Region and the provinces of Zambales, Bataan, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, and Rizal are hereby suspended today, 07 August 2012," the Palace said.

Deputy Presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said companies who refuse to heed the Palace order may be reported to the Dept. of Labor and Employment, amid reports some business process outsourcing companies still require their employees to report for work.

Apart from low-lying areas in the capital and its eastern skirts already submerged under water, the North Luzon Expressway-Balintawak area is already under water.

Officials said in some areas there were many calls for help but it was too dangerous for rescuers to try to reach those stranded.

"The current is too strong so we have to tie our rubber boats with ropes to keep them from being swept away," one disaster official said.

Death toll from eight days of sustained rains had reached at least 53 with nearly 270,000 forced to flee their homes across the country, according to disaster authorities.

No new casualties were reported from the overnight rains.

But weathermen warned the floods could worsen as the La Mesa dam, Manila's sole reservoir, began letting off water that would swell surrounding rivers.

Weathermen said the 24-hour stretch until Tuesday morning had dumped 323 millimeters (13 inches) of rainfall on Metro Manila, as against an average monthly rainfall of 504 millimeters for August.

PAGASA is also urging the public to guard against landslides and flashfloods that can possibly strike Luzon areas reeling from continuing monsoon rains.

"Expect landslides/flashfloods in mountainous areas and floods in low-lying areas," PAGASA said in its weather advisory issued at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

PAGASA raised such warning, noting tropical storm Haikui is enhancing the southwest monsoon which is driving rainfall in Luzon's western side.

The southwest monsoon "will continue to bring occasional to frequent rains over Luzon becoming moderate to heavy rains in the provinces of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Zambales, Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas and National Capital Region (Tuesday) until tomorrow with gradual improvement of weather condition by Thursday and onwards to the weekend," PAGASA said in the advisory.

PAGASA located Haikui at 300 kms northeast of Taiwan as of mid afternoon of Tuesday.

In Pangasinan, all local government units in Pangasinan have been ordered to intensify disaster preparedness for quick response as heavy rains are still expected and may cause flood in areas.

“We instructed LGUs of low-lying municipalities and cities in central and eastern Pangasinan to make ready their rescue and relief capabilities for affected residents in those areas,” Provincial Administrator Rafael Baraan said.

Residents especially those in towns along Cayanga-Bued River, Pantal-Sinocalan River and Agno River and in those villages in hilly areas susceptible to flash floods were also advised to take appropriate actions.

Baraan cited another threat to towns and cities in eastern and central Pangasinan aside from the continuous heavy rainfalls brought by the monsoon rains.

He said there was massive release of water from San Roque Multi-purpose Dam which greatly affected low lying towns in eastern Pangasinan prone to flooding like San Fabian, Mangaldan, San Nicolas, Tayug, Sta. Maria and Rosales.

“All mountainous areas in the province especially in the towns of Bugallon and Labrador are vulnerable to flash floods that’s why we have to alert the residents in the area to prepare themselves or even evacuate to safer places,” Provincial Police Director Mariano Luis Versoza said.

Before sundown, the town of Calasiao, near Dagupan, is now partly submerged with nine barangays (Talibalew, Lasip, San Vicente, Banaoang, Mabini St. Poblacion East and West, Sitio Pandayan in Gabon and Quesban) already flooded.

Reports from LGU Calasiao noted that 55 families with 251 persons have been evacuated to the Calasiao Aliguas Training Center in Poblacion West.

In Bulacan, violent floodwaters brought by non-stop torrential rains have transformed large parts of the rice-growing province into a virtual “water world” with at least 59 villages in five towns and two cities submerged under two to five feet of floods, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported Tuesday.

PDRRMC chairman Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado has put emergency response and rescue teams on a 24-hour alert.

Rescue teams were also dispatched to severely flooded areas to evacuate affected residents.

Relief goods and medicines were also being readied and hauled to trucks for immediate delivery to flood victims.

Alvarado supervised operations at the PDRRMO command center at the provincial capitol in Malolos City, giving assurances to people the government is closely monitoring the status of Ipo and Bustos dams, which have opened two spill gates since Monday night and Tuesday morning.

"The Bustos dam is crucial. If it can withstand the water being released by Ipo dam, the massive flooding in the downstream areas might be avoided," he said. By Philippines News Agency

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