The Heat Is Online

Worst Typhoon in Decades Batters Philippines

 

Philippines cleans up, counts cost after powerful Typhoon Nesat

After killing at least 20 people, storm moves northwest toward China

msnbc.com news services, Sept. 28, 2011  

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines on Wednesday began cleaning up and tallying the damage bill from powerful Typhoon Nesat, which killed at least 20 people and left behind flooded towns, overflowing dams and damage to rice crops across northern island of Luzon.

Emergency services in the capital Manila began restoring electricity after the powerful storm unleashed fierce wind and sent huge waves crashing over seawalls.

Most deaths occurred in and around metropolitan Manila, which already was soaked by heavy monsoon rains ahead of the arrival Tuesday of Nesat, which brought more downpours and wind gusts of up to 93 miles per hour.

The typhoon blew out of the Philippines on Wednesday packing winds of 75 mph and was expected to make landfall on China's Hainan Island on Thursday evening or early Friday.

The Philippine disaster agency said 35 people were still unaccounted for and that 108 had been rescued.

Power supply was gradually restored to the downtown area, which was strewn with trash and fallen bamboo pieces washed ashore by storm surges. The Metro Rail Transit also resumed operations.

Some areas were still flooded, including Manila Ocean Park facing Manila Bay and a major thoroughfare, Taft Avenue. The nearby U.S. Embassy, which was inundated Tuesday, remained closed.

Rice crops ruined

Benito Ramos, who heads the Office of Civil Defense, said floods were receding in many areas as the weather began to clear but low-lying regions, especially in the vast, rice-producing plains of the main northern island of Luzon, were still under water.

Mayor Santiago Austria of Jaen, a rice-farming town of 63,000 people in northern Nueva Ecija province, pleaded Wednesday for boats to rescue many villagers from their swamped communities and bring them to evacuation centers. Sporadic rains continued to pound his town, about 75 miles north of Manila.

"We only have four boats but there are so many people waiting to be rescued," Austria told The Associated Press by cellphone. "Many people here are still on top of their houses. We don't have enough boats to reach them and hand them food."

Floods also damaged large tracts of rice fields that were soon to be ready for harvesting, he said.

Ramos said army troops were on their way to help the Jaen villagers.

The Department of Agriculture said initial estimates put crop damage, mainly of rice, at about $16 million, while the disaster agency put infrastructure damage at around $1.7 million.

The National Food Authority said it had sufficient stocks to cover the losses, with 2.5 million tons of rice, equal to 75 days of demand, in its warehouses.

The central bank said crop damage and supply problems caused by the typhoon could increase prices temporarily.

The government had cut rice imports this year to about 860,000 tons from a record 2.45 million tons in 2010, and plans to make the country self-sufficient in its national staple in coming years.

Major damage to crops could have forced Manila to buy from international markets at a time when rice prices are rising.

Welcome mat for typhoons

Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim said huge waves as high as coconut trees breached a 65-foot-long seawall astride a popular promenade, allowing seawater from Manila Bay to rapidly engulf hotels, a hospital, business offices and several blocks of residential areas in waist-deep floodwaters.

"This is the first time that this kind of flooding happened here," said Lim, who began his career in Manila as a tough-talking police officer decades ago.

Strong winds toppled about 40 huge trees around the capital's tourist district and 3,500 people were moved from shantytowns into three school buildings, where they spent the night huddled amid continuing rains.

Emergency repair crews were clearing roads of trees, debris and stalled cars as schools and offices reopened Wednesday.

The massive flooding came a day after this sprawling, coastal city of 12 million held two-year commemorations for the nearly 500 people killed during a 2009 cyclone, which dumped a month's rainfall in just 12 hours. The geography of the archipelago makes it a welcome mat for about 20 storms and typhoons from the Pacific each year.

Some residents acted more quickly this time to evacuate homes as waters rose, including in the Manila suburb of Marikina, where 2,000 people escaped the swelling river by flocking to an elementary school, carrying pets, TV sets, bags of clothes and bottled water.

"We can replace things, but not people's lives," said janitor Banny Domanais, arriving at the school with his wife and three young daughters.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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Typhoon kills 16 in Philippines, floods Manila

With gusts of up to 93 mph, Nesat also knocks out power across capital

msnbc.com news services, Sept. 27, 2011

MANILA, Philippines  — Downtown areas along Manila Bay saw their worst flooding in decades as a powerful typhoon dumped rain and sent surging waves as tall as palm trees crashing over sea walls.

At least 16 people were killed, most of them in metropolitan Manila, which already was soaked by heavy monsoon rains ahead of Typhoon Nesat's arrival.

The victims included a 22-month-old boy, Reuters reported. Large portions of Manila were without power.

'It's flooded everywhere'

Pounding rains obscured the view of anyone on the streets as soldiers and police scrambled to safely evacuate thousands of people in low-lying areas, where rivers and the sea spilled into shanties, hospitals, swanky hotels and even the seaside U.S. Embassy compound, which was closed Tuesday.

"It's flooded everywhere. We don't have a place to go for shelter. Even my motorcycle got filled with water," said motorist Ray Gonzales, one of thousands stranded by fast-rising floodwaters.

The massive flooding came exactly a day after this sprawling, coastal city of 12 million held commemorations for the nearly 500 people killed during a 2009 cyclone, which dumped a month's rainfall in just 12 hours.

Some residents acted more quickly this time to evacuate homes as waters rose, including in the Manila suburb of Marikina where 2,000 people escaped the swelling river by flocking to an elementary school, carrying pets, TV sets, bags of clothes and bottled water.

"We can replace things, but not people's lives," said janitor Banny Domanais, arriving at the school with his wife and three young daughters.
 
 
Typhoon Nesat hit ashore before dawn Tuesday in eastern provinces and headed inland just north of Manila with up to an inch of rain per hour, half that of the storm two years ago, said government forecaster Samuel Duran.

The geography of the archipelago makes it a welcome mat for about 20 storms and typhoons forming in the Pacific each year but the latest onslaught still caught many by surprise.

In all, authorities ordered more than 100,000 people across the country to shelter from Typhoon Nesat's rains, winds of 75 mph and gusts of up to 93 mph — enough to bend street signs.

Along downtown Manila's historic baywalk, cars and buses were stuck and residents struggled through floodwaters as waves washed over the seawall, turning a six-lane highway into a huge brown river. Sidewalks and entrances to buildings were swamped and vehicles stranded along narrow streets.

Manila Hospital moved patients from its ground floor, where waters were neck-deep, spokeswoman Evangeline Morales said. Hospital generators were flooded and the building had no power since early Tuesday. Emergency workers evacuated river areas in the city that are notorious for flooding.

An Associated Press photographer said soldiers and police in trucks moved thousands of residents, mostly women and children, from the Baseco shanty facing Manila port after many houses were washed away. Male family members were reluctant to leave saying they wanted to guard their property.

The Philippine Stock Exchange and U.S. Embassy were also closed Tuesday. Waters at the gates of the embassy compound, which is located along Manila Bay, reached chest-deep.

"There was some flooding in the embassy, I don't know the extent. I'm not there right now," said embassy spokeswoman Tina Malone. She said employees on their way Tuesday turned around when told of a decision to close the embassy.

The Sofitel Philippine Plaza relocated its guests after flooding damaged areas of the high-end hotel on the shores of Manila Bay. Sirinate Meenakul, the hotel's regional communications director, said no guests or staff were injured. She did not say how many guests were there.

Billboard falls onto bus

Residents in one neighborhood of Quezon City, a Manila suburb, fled their homes due to rising water from the nearby San Mateo River, and evacuations were under way along the Marikina River.

Toby Tiangco, the mayor of flood-prone Navotas, part of the greater Manila area, said it was the first time that water overcame the dike protecting the town.

In the financial district of Makati, a billboard fell on two cars and a bus, causing injuries.

Seasonal monsoon rains have been accumulating and "typhoon winds, strong waves could have pushed water inland," Duran, the forecaster, told AP. "Land is saturated with rain so the next rain became run-off and was already floodwater," he said.

Francis Tolentino, chairman of Metro Manila Development Authority, which encompasses the capital's 17 cities, blamed the storm surge for the Manila Bay flooding.

"The wind was so strong so the seawater overflowed and flowed past the embankment and couldn't flow back to the bay because of the embankment," he said, adding that a high tide developing later Tuesday also played a role.

President Benigno Aquino III, on a state visit to Japan, issued a statement saying he had instructed authorities to compile all information about the flooding.

He said the government had carried out preventive evacuations in the central Philippines. Nearly half of the Luzon areas served by the main power distributor were without electricity due to tripping caused by high winds, he said.

"I'm in constant touch with these members of my Cabinet and the executive secretary has been instructed to keep me and the public informed of conditions pertaining as well as mitigation efforts," Aquino said.

12-foot-high waves
 
The first reported death was a 1-year-old who drowned in the central island province of Cataduanes after falling into a river, the government disaster agency reported. As the typhoon moved into Manila, a mother and child were killed when their house was hit by a falling tree in the suburb of Caloocan, and four were reported killed by a collapsing wall in the suburb of Valenzuela.

Four fishermen were missing while more than 50 others were rescued along eastern shores after their boats overturned in choppy seas.
 
Forecasters warned of 12-foot-high waves.

A tornado in Isabela's Maconancon town ripped off the roofs of at least five houses, injuring two people, police said.

With its immense 400-mile cloud band, the typhoon threatened to foul weather across the entire main island of Luzon as it moves across the Philippines toward the South China Sea late Wednesday or early Thursday toward southern China.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
 
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