Heavy rains pounded the Philippines capital on Wednesday, prompting a new danger alert as emergency workers rushed food, water and clothes to almost one million people through streets turned into rivers after 11 straight days of monsoon downpour.
Twenty people were reported killed since Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 73 since steady rains started when Typhoon Saola hit northern portions of the main Luzon Island in late July. Financial markets reopened after being shut on Tuesday, but schools and many businesses shut for a second day. Some public offices suspended operations on Wednesday afternoon. Jesse Robredo, the interior secretary, said the government has started drawing up plans to permanently relocate residents along riverbanks and coastal areas to reduce property and human losses during the rest of the typhoon and monsoon season. The national disaster agency said on Wednesday morning that at least 1.95 million people were stranded or displaced, many seeking relief at crowded temporary shelter areas. “We were hoping to go home because it’s difficult here. The sleeping conditions are not comfortable, and it’s not easy to get food,” Joyce Anne Diri, a mother of three, told Reuters at a temporary shelter in flooded Marikina City in the eastern part of the capital.The seasonal monsoon rains in the Philippines gathered strength this year from Typhoon Saola and as tropical storm Haikui travelled through the Philippine Sea this week. But the rains should dissipate by Thursday, the weather bureau said, as Haikui made landfall in China. The combination of constant rains and an overflowing lake that fed into the Pasig River, a tidal estuary swollen well beyond flood crest, was made worse as the high tide pushed in more water from the western ocean bay. “We’re still concerned about the situation in the coastal areas,” Ramos said after conducting an aerial survey of hard-hit areas. “It was difficult to distinguish the sea from the flood waters.” Four provinces near Manila were placed under a state of calamity, including the key rice-growing provinces of Bataan and Pampanga. The farm department estimates the damage so far to crops, mainly rice, at 152 million pesos ($3.6 million). ($1 = 41.85 Philippine pesos)