Typhoon Vamco: Philippines begins clean-up after storm that killed at least 39
Residents of Manila region return to salvage possessions from mud-covered homes
The Philippines on Friday began clearing up the devastation brought by Typhoon Vamco as officials raised the death toll from the third powerful storm to hit the country in as many weeks to 39.
Torrential rain dumped by the storm flooded low-lying areas of Manila and surrounding provinces, trapping people on rooftops and balconies.
As floodwaters receded and residents began to return home, the scale of the destruction left by Vamco became clearer.
In Marikina City, one of the hardest hit areas of the capital, mud-covered washing machines, televisions, sofas, office chairs and bicycles were piled up on streets as residents swept debris and muddy water from their homes.
Hundreds of thousands were still without power after Vamco lashed the most populous island of Luzon on Wednesday and Thursday, triggering landslides, toppling trees and cutting off roads. Power was expected to be fully restored to all 3.8 million affected households in about three days. Government offices were closed and classes suspended for public schools Friday.
Military chief of staff Gen Gilbert Gapay told an emergency meeting of disaster-response officials that the storm caused 39 deaths, with 32 people missing.
Amphibious assault vehicles usually used in counter-insurgency operations were deployed for the rescue work, Gen Gapay said.
“We’ll continue to look for the missing, help in damage assessment,” he said.
Police, soldiers and coast guard were deployed to assist in rescue efforts, using boats to reach thousands of people stranded. The operations were made more complicated by the coronavirus outbreak.
Philippine National Police said more than 100,000 people had been rescued, including 41,000 in the capital region.
Authorities promised to distribute food and other essentials to victims, many of whom were still recovering from typhoons Molave and Goni that killed dozens of people, destroyed tens of thousands of houses and knocked out power to swathes of the country in recent weeks.
Defending the response to the latest disaster, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the government "acted fast".
"Unfortunately we couldn't do anything about the floodwater which rose too fast... but we made sure no one will be left behind," he said.
Officials said many people had ignored orders to evacuate their homes and were caught by surprise by the fast-rising waters.
The severity of the flooding in Manila and the neighbouring province of Rizal sparked comparisons with the devastation caused by Typhoon Ketsana in 2009 that killed hundreds.
Vamco hit the Philippines on the heels of Typhoon Goni, one of the strongest typhoons in the world this year, which left more than 30 people dead or missing and damaged or destroyed 270,000 houses.
Updated: November 13, 2020 09:40 AM