Reuters News Service, Aug. 5, 1999
MANILA - Heavy rains hammered the Philippine capital Manila for the third straight day on Tuesday, forcing more than 40,000 to flee their homes and triggering landslides and widespread floods that have killed at least 16 people.
Officials warned thousands more people living near river banks to prepare to evacuate as water in a major dam on the outskirts of the city approached the overflow level. Schools were ordered closed and the military was called to help evacuate residents trapped in low-lying areas.
"This is definitely one of the worst rainfalls we have had in years," Rolu Encarnacion, chief of the flood forecasting centre, told Reuters. "We expect more rains in the next two days," he said.
On Monday, landslides in the eastern district of Antipolo crushed 10 people to death while six others drowned in floods, most of them children, relief agencies said.
A Manila radio station reported at least 20 had died in the landslides and floodings but this could not be confirmed immediately.
"We have ordered the armed forces and the police to be on a 24-hour alert and to closely monitor the situation at the dams because of the danger of spill-overs," Defence Secretary Orlando Mercado said.
The water level at La Mesa dam, which supplies water to the metropolis of 10 million people, rose to 8.05 metres - just centimetres below the overflow level.
Despite advice to take shelter in higher ground, thousands of residents along river banks near the dam refused to leave.
"The problem is that many people are reluctant to leave their property behind," Philippine Red Cross disaster management chief James Sian said by phone.
Floodwaters in low-lying areas of Manila reached a height of 10 feet (three metres) on Monday. They began to recede later in the day but started rising again as monsoon rains pummelled wide areas of the city through the night.
Mercado blamed poor waste disposal by Manila residents and destruction of forests in mountains near the capital for the disaster.
"This is a product of environmental destruction. The landslides are the most picturesque symbols of how nature can get back at us," he said.
Traffic in the city, notoriously slow at the best of times, was at a crawl in the morning as buses and cars negotiated the at times knee-deep water on major roads.
Weather bureau officials said the monsoon rains had been aggravated by the passing of Typhoon Olga off the northern Philippines last weekend, which packed winds of 120 kph (75 mph). An average of 20 typhoons hit the archipelago of 7,000 islands a year and Olga was the eighth to strike in 1999.
The civil defence office said about 45,000 people had fled to evacuation centres around the capital as of 10 p.m. (1400 GMT) on Monday night.
Reuters News Service
Mudslides smash Manila homes
A massive mudslide, brought on by days of torrential rains, swept down a hillside in Manila Wednesday, raising to at least 44 the death toll in the Philippines' worst floods in years, officials said.
The slide in Manila's eastern district of Antipolo enveloped a hillside housing estate, killing at least nine people, with scores more believed still buried in the rubble. The Philippines Civil Defense Office Spokesman Nick Garcia said 24 people were still missing, but residents estimated the missing to be between 50 and 100.
"The houses collapsed like an accordion," said Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado.
The military reported that before the mudslide, 35 people had died in Manila and neighboring areas since Sunday as a result of the torrential rains.
As the weather bureau warned of more rain to come, President Joseph Estrada declared a state of calamity in Manila and surrounding provinces, allowing the release of emergency funds.