MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Widespread flooding that killed at least 11 people, battered a million others and paralyzed the Philippine capital began to ease Wednesday as cleanup and rescue efforts focused on a large number of distressed residents, some still marooned on their roofs.
Government forecasters said the monsoon rains that overflowed major dams and rivers in Manila and surrounding provinces would gradually abate and lead to sunny weather on Thursday after 12 days of relentless downpours.
The deluge was the worst since 2009, when hundreds died in rampaging flash floods.
“We’re still on a rescue mode,” said Benito Ramos, who heads the government’s main disaster-response agency. “Floods are receding in many areas but people are still trapped on their roofs.”
Ramos said the massive flooding turned half of Manila into “a water world” on Monday evening and into Tuesday. Eleven died, including nine in a landslide in Quezon City, a Manila suburb, while 1.2 million people were affected. They included 783,000 who fled from their inundated homes in two days of intense rains and flooding that started late Sunday.
Rescue efforts shifted into high gear Wednesday, with more than 130 emergency crews from two provinces reaching the capital city of 12 million people to help their overwhelmed teams, including police and army troops.
Manila was drenched with more than half of a month’s worth of rain in just 24 hours. A storm off eastern China that intensified the southwest monsoon moved away and the weather started improving Wednesday, according to government forecaster Glaiza Escullar.
“We may see the sun tomorrow,” Escullar said.
TV footage showed rescuers dangling on ropes to bring children and other residents to safety from flooded houses across the city. Many residents trapped in their homes called radio and TV stations desperately asking for help.
“We need to be rescued,” Josephine Cruz told DZMM radio as water rose around her house in Quezon City, saying she was trapped in her two-story house with 11 other people, including her 83-year-old mother. “We can’t get out because the floodwaters are now higher than people.”
ABC-CBN TV network reported receiving frantic calls from people whose relatives were trapped in the deluge, many without food since Tuesday morning. They included a pregnant woman with a baby who wanted to be rescued from a roof and about 55 people who scrambled to the third floor of a Quezon City house as water rose below them.
Vehicles and even heavy trucks struggled to navigate water-clogged roads, where hundreds of thousands of commuters were stranded. Many cars were stuck in the muddy waters.
The government suspended work and classes Tuesday but offices opened Wednesday. Traffic was still light as workers began cleaning roads from debris, heaps and trash and fallen trees.
In 2009, massive flooding spawned by a typhoon devastated Manila and surrounding areas, killing hundreds. The state weather bureau said that the current flooding was not as severe.