Floods shut down Philippine capital and nearby provinces

Officials say thousands evacuated in Manila and surrounding areas.

MANILA, Philippines – Heavy rains from a storm and the seasonal monsoon caused widespread flooding Friday in the Philippine capital and nearby provinces, shutting down schools and government offices.

Local authorities reported thousands were evacuated early Friday from severely inundated communities, some with rapidly flowing waters more than neck high. Local radio stations reported residents taking shelter in the second floor of homes where the water had reached the ceiling of the ground floor.

Manila airport authorities said the rains and radar problems caused delays and the cancellation of at least 28 domestic flights to and from northern and central Philippines affected by Tropical Storm Fung-Wong. At least three international flights heading to Manila were diverted to Clark International Airport in northern Pampanga province.

Flooded streets caused traffic gridlock across the city of 12 million, with many motorists and other commuters unaware of the extent of the flooding due to a lack of reports from local authorities.

Presidential spokeswoman Abigal Valte said that work in government offices in the capital and 15 other provinces has been suspended.

The Philippine Stock Exchange suspended trading and some banks sent their employees home by noon.

Weather forecaster Dioni Sarmiento said more than 260 millimeters (10 inches) of rain fell over a part of Metro Manila used as a rainfall gauge over a 24-hour period ending early Friday. That was more than half of the amount of rain that caused massive flooding across the sprawling metropolis of 12 million people in 2009.

Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said some parts of the capital were flooded overnight and residents in a number of slum communities were evacuated to safety but added that floodwaters were receding because major drainage pipes had been cleared of thrash 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.”

Zharina Biong, a staffer 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, have been evacuated since dawn Friday.

The storm, which packed winds of up to 100 kilometres (62 miles) per hour made landfall in northern Cagayan province around noon Friday. It was expected to leave Philippine territory by Sunday and make a sharp turn northward toward Taiwan and southern Japan.

Just last week, Typhoon Kalmaegi hit the same area, leaving eight people dead and displacing over 366,000.

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