Massive toll unfolds

Maring leaves 15 dead, damaged crops, properties Tropical storm Maring left a swath of destruction when it finally left the country’s area of responsibility on Wednesday, leaving 15 people dead and punishing Luzon and Metro Manila with massive flooding over the last few days. Weather forecaster Connie Dadivas said that Maring (international name Trami) left the country at 7 a.m. and was heading for China, but warned that the storm would continue to enhance the southwest monsoon to bring moderate to heavy rains and thunderstorms.
Lining up for relief. Evacuees at the H. Bautista Elementary School in Concepcion village in Marikina brave the rain to receive relief delivered by the Army. MANNY PALMERO Lining up for relief. Evacuees at the H. Bautista Elementary School in Concepcion village in Marikina brave the rain to receive relief delivered by the Army. MANNY PALMERO
The weather is expected to gradually improve by Thursday evening, she added. Despite the improved forecast, several Metro Manila cities kept classes at all levels suspended, including Makati, Malabon, Manila, Marikina, Navotas, Paranaque, Taguig. Cavite, Laguna, and San Mateo, Rizal. Rescue officials on Wednesday said Maring that aside from the eight victims, at least 1 million people living in low-lying and flood-prone areas were affected. Most of the fatalities were due to drowning. The government launched full-scale relief operations to help the 223,991 families in 1,028 barangays in 80 municipalities and 35 cities across  Central Luzon, the Southern Tagalog provinces, the Ilocos region, the Cordillera region, and Metro Manila, which were hardest hit by flooding. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council put the initial damage to infrastructure at P57 million and agriculture at P10 million in the provinces of Mindoro, Romblon, Ilocos Sur, Pangasinan, Rizal, Laguna and Benguet as torrential rains left hectares of agricultural land and crops submerged under floodwaters. The agency did not include any estimate of the damage done to private property or the livelihood of those affected by the floods as they expect the damage cost to go higher as officials continue their assessment. The council added that flood waters in some severely affected areas remained knee-deep but said the waters would likely recede by Friday as the weather slowly improves. Disaster officials also said that 88 roads in the flood-affected areas were still impassable, as were bridges at Pasig Potrero in Pampanga and the Mountain Province. The provinces of Cavite, Laguna and Occidental Mindoro were still experiencing power outages while port operations in Batangas and Dallahican, Quezon resumed Wednesday. In Pampanga, lahar deposits cascaded through the Pasig Potrero River channel, breaking off a portion of the bridge at the stretch of the SCTEX highway. Local authorities in at least three provinces, six towns and two cities declared a state of calamity because of severe flooding. These include the provinces of Cavite, Mountain Province and Laguna; Narvacan, Sta. Marian, Gregorio del Pilar, Lidlidda, San Emilio and Candon City in Ilocos Sur; Masantol and Macabebe in Bataan; San Fernando City and the towns of Minalin and Guagua in Pampanga; Tarlac City in Tarlac; Obando, Hagonoy and Calumpit in Bulacan; San Mateo and Taytay in Rizal; Sta. Barbara and Dagupan City in Pangasinan; and Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro. In Metro Manila, a state of calamity was declared in the cities of Parañaque, Muntinlupa, Malabon, Pasay, and Marikina and the town of Pateros. Floodwaters were slowly receding Wednesday, with only 20 percent to 30 percent of Metro Manila still flooded, the Office of Civil Defense-National Capital Region said. On Tuesday, the agency said up to 60 percent of the metropolis was flooded. The head of the agency, Edgardo Oller, said no fatalities were reported in Metro Manila. Marikina Mayor Del de Guzman declared a state of calamity as thousands of evacuees remained in evacuation centers. He said more than 29,000 people or about 6,000 families were sheltered inside 23 schools, village halls, multi-purpose halls and gymnasiums. Pasay City was also placed under a state of calamity after rains caused flooding in half of the city’s villages and displaced close to 50,000 residents. In a special session on Wednesday morning, the city council declared Pasay under a state of calamity, the last of the local government units in Metro Manila to do so. Pasay Mayor Tony Calixto said the state of calamity would hasten relief and rehabilitation efforts. In Makati City, the city government suspended classes until Friday to allow students and their families to recover from the effects of the massive flooding. A total of 5,483 residents were affected by the strong rains, Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay, Jr. said. Philippine Red Cross secretary general Gwendolyn Pang said close to 300,000 people were living in evacuation centers or seeking shelter with friends and relatives. “The problem now is food, and a source of water for drinking. They also have to wash their clothes (while) some had their belongings washed away by the water,” Pang said. One of the worst-affected areas was the coastal district of Cavite, where residents were enduring waist-deep water streaming through countless homes. “We are really pitiful here. People are still shocked. There is no electricity,” Lino Ibadlit, a district councillor, said. He said the local government had brought some food and other relief goods but they were only suitable for one day. “The people have no choice but to wade through the water to look for food, but stores are either closed or have run out of supplies... we need canned goods, noodles, biscuits,” he said. Ibadlit said health was also starting to become a concern, with children beginning to suffer from colds and skin rashes. The floods paralyzed the capital on Monday and Tuesday, with schools, government offices, banks and the stock exchange closed. The city was even quieter on Wednesday, although it was a public holiday. People living in important farming regions to the north of Manila were also enduring flooding. In Pampanga province knee-high water submerged vast areas of rice fields and farming towns. Marcela Cantellana, 53, said five families whose homes are beside the Porac river had been living inside her two-storey home since the floods struck before dawn on Monday. “The water went up so quickly. They weren’t even able to save their clothes because the water rose to the rooftops in minutes. All of their livestock, their goats, pigs and chickens, were lost,” she said. However the flooding in Pampanga was lower than Tuesday and the Porac river had returned to normal levels on Wednesday, allowing the displaced families at Cantellana’s house to start cleaning out their homes. Maring, the 13th storm to lash the Philippines, which averages 20 typhoons a year, was headed for Taiwan, after forcing the cancellation of 15 flights – 13 international and two domestic. The heavy rains damaged rice fields in Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Pampanga and Bulacan. President Benigno Aquino III distributed relief Wednesday to typhoon victims in Biñan, Laguna, one of provinces hardest hit by the heavy monsoon rains and floods. Mr. Aquino and other Cabinet members distributed food packs to evacuees at the Dela Paz Elementary School. In a short speech, Aquino assured evacuees that the government was ready to provide assistance and was doing its best to provide for their basic needs. After Biñan, Aquino proceeded to San Pedro, also in Laguna, and Mandaluyong City before sundown. In Manila, food manufacturers assured the public there would be a sufficient supply of basic products, the Trade and Industry Department said. The department urged consumers not to panic, and warned retailers not to take advantage of the bad weather to jack up their prices. With Florante S. Solmerin, Ferdinand Fabella, Francisco Tuyay, AFP, PNA
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