Manila battered and flooded by torrential rains

Incessant downpours set off by the seasonal monsoon overflowed major dams and rivers in Manila and surrounding provinces and put authorities and troops on alert.

Stranded Filipinos cling on to signs above their buildings in Marikina City, Metro Manila.
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MANILA // Torrential rains in the Philippine capital triggered a landslide that killed eight people and sent government emergency crews scrambling to rescue and evacuate tens of thousands of residents, some of whom were stranded on the roofs of their homes.

Incessant downpours set off by the seasonal monsoon overflowed major dams and rivers in Manila and surrounding provinces and put authorities and troops on alert.

The capital and other parts of the Philippines already were saturated from last week's Typhoon Saola, which battered Manila and the north for several days before blowing away on Friday. That storm was responsible for at least 53 deaths.

But Manila's weather bureau said a separate tropical storm off eastern China had intensified monsoon rains in the Philippines and was responsible for the latest deluge, which began last night and did not let up until earlier this morning.

In Quezon City, a landslide hit a row of shanties along a road, burying eight people, according to witnesses.

Army troops and police dug frantically to save those buried, who included four children, as surviving relatives and neighbours wept. All the victims were later dug up, including a man whose body was found near an entombed shanty's door.

Nicanor Bartolome, the National police chief, went to the scene and ordered all other slum dwellers to be evacuated from the dangerous area.

TV footage showed rescuers dangling on ropes to bring children and other residents to safety from flooded houses. Many residents trapped in their homes as floodwaters rose 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 near a river and creek 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."

Vehicles and even heavy lorries struggled to navigate water-clogged roads, where hundreds of thousands of commuters were stranded overnight. Many cars were stuck in the muddy waters.

The La Mesa dam, which supplies water to the capital of 12 million people, spilt excess water early Tuesday into the rivers flowing into Quezon City, as well as the neighbourhoods of Malabon, Valenzuela and Caloocan, where several villages were submerged.

Along the swollen Marikina River, police were deployed to move more than 5,000 residents away from the riverbanks in what Vice Mayor Jose Cadiz said was an enforced evacuation.

President Benigno Aquino III called an emergency meeting of cabinet officials and disaster-response agencies to deal with the widespread flooding. He ordered officials to make sure all residents were accounted for in flooded villages and discussed how flooded hospitals can be helped in case they were hit by power outages.

The Philippine Stock Exchange in the financial district of Makati, which also was flooded, was closed. Also closed was the US Embassy along Manila Bay in the historic old city, which was flooded last week when a storm surge pushed the water over the seawall.

The military, which was involved in the rescue work, cancelled several events due to the flooding, including an awarding of bounties to tipsters who helped troops capture militants in the south of the country.

In 2009, massive flooding spawned by a typhoon devastated Manila and the surrounding areas and killed hundreds of residents in rampaging flash floods. The state weather bureau said that the current flooding was not as severe and that the weather may start to improve later this week.

Saola was the seventh of 20 typhoons and storms expected to batter the Philippines this year.