Neck-deep floods shut down Manila

MANILA - Torrential rain shut down most of the Philippine capital Monday as neck-deep water swept through parts of Manila, while floods in northern farming areas claimed at least one life.

A pedicab driver wades through a flooded street in Manila on August 19, 2013, after heavy rain hit the Philippine capital. All schools, government offices and the stock exchange were closed.

Schools, government offices and the stock exchange in the megacity of 12 million people closed as a red alert was raised, the highest level of a warning system in which widespread floods are predicted.

"We are trying to save whatever we can. But it was so sudden," J.R Pascual, a father-of-four, told AFP as he tried to take the most important possessions from his home that was flooded up to his waist.

"My neighbour wasn't even able to get his car out."

Pascual lives in a middle-class district of Cavite, which is about 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the heart of Manila.

Roads from Cavite into the city were impassable, while some motorists who tried to get through the flooded streets were forced to abandon their cars.

Some commuters on public transport were also stranded, and had to wade through muddy, trash-filled water to find higher ground.

"I didn't know they had suspended work," said factory worker Karisa Merin, 33, as she stood marooned on a footpath.

Footage on ABS-CBN showed people in shanty town communities standing on their corrugated iron roofs, as fast-moving water swept through the windows of their homes.

Farming and mountainous areas hundreds of kilometres to the north of Manila on the main island of Luzon were also badly flooded, according to the government's disaster management council.

It reported some areas were enduring floods of 1.2 metres (four feet), following persistent rain that began at the weekend.

At least one person died in a flood-related car accident and two people were missing in the north, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported.

The flooding was due to the normal monsoon being exacerbated by Tropical Storm Trami, which was causing problems despite being more than 500 kilometres (300 miles) from the Philippines, weather forecasters said.

The Southeast Asian archipelago endures about 20 major storms or typhoons annually, generally in the second half of the year and many of them are deadly.

In August last year, 51 people died and two million others were affected when more than a month's worth of rain was dumped in and around Manila in 48 hours.

One of the most devastating storms to hit the capital was in 2009, when Tropical Storm Ketsana led to 80 percent of the capital being submerged.

It was immediately followed by Tropical Storm Parma, and more than 1,100 people died in the back-to-back disasters.

Chaotic urban planning is widely blamed for exacerbating the impacts of storms in Manila and other parts of the country, which has had to deal with massive population growth over the past generation.

Widespread deforestation, the conversion of wetlands to farms or cities, and the clogging up of natural drainage systems with garbage are some of the factors that worsen floods.

The deadliest storm in the world last year occurred in the Philippines, when Typhoon Bopha left more than 1,000 dead and 800 others missing in the south of the country.

The southern areas are usually spared from the typhoons, and communities there were unprepared for Bopha.

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Writer: AFP
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