Manila/ Calumpit: The Philippines on Wednesday began tallying the damage bill from powerful Typhoon Nesat, which killed at least 21 people and left behind flooded towns, overflowing dams and damage to rice crops across northern Luzon island.
As the typhoon moved over the South China Sea towards northern Vietnam and southern China, Manila said efforts to find dozens of people still missing were being hindered by bad weather.
Financial markets, government offices and some schools reopened after being closed by the typhoon, and train services resumed after power supplies were restored in the capital. However, some flights were again cancelled on Wednesday.
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.
Crop damage included 33,890 tonnes of rice from 56,421 hectares affected in five regions, including the key rice growing Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon regions.
The Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon together were expected to account for just under one-third of national rice output in the fourth quarter.
The National Food Authority said it had sufficient stocks to cover the losses, with 2.5 million tonnes 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. "In case of inflationary impact, this would at worst be one off," Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo told Reuters.
Across Luzon, the Philippines' main island, flooding, storm surges and strong winds caused great amounts of damage. Some provincial towns were still flooded and without power on Wednesday.
There were still nearly 48,000 people in evacuation centres on Wednesday morning, the disaster agency said, adding authorities were inspecting roads closed by debris and cut by landslides in the northern mountain region.
The sea wall at Manila Bay was badly damaged by storm surges, which swamped Roxas Boulevard and other waterfront areas, keeping the U.S. embassy shut again on Wednesday.
Francis Tolentino, head of the Metro Manila Development Authority, said it would take more than a week to clean up, with the priority on restoring power supply and communication lines.
"There's so much work to be done to rebuild dykes and the sea wall, as well as fix the houses destroyed in coastal areas," Tolentino told Reuters, adding some areas remain flooded.
Earlier reports: Death toll at 18
The death toll in the Philippines from Typhoon Nesat climbed to 18 on Wednesday as thousands of people battled widespread flooding and another storm bore down on the country.
Rescuers reported two more deaths overnight, while 35 others remained missing, after Nesat unleashed heavy rains, winds and storm surges across the main island of Luzon on Tuesday.
Authorities said they were racing to help thousands of people stranded in flooded villages on the outskirts of the capital of Manila and to repair damaged infrastructure before more bad weather struck.
Burst dykes and water released by authorities from dams that reached critical levels isolated many parts of Bulacan province, just an hour's drive north of Manila.
"Two of my sons are stranded, they texted me that they spent last night on the roof," 56-year-old security guard Resty Tolentino told AFP as he waded through waist-deep murky waters in a bid to reach his home in Calumpit town.
He and another son, a 13-year-old boy, struggled with the strong current while carrying food and other supplies.
"The water had subsided somewhat, but I am still worried because there could be more rain today."
Dozens of others were also slowly making their way through the flooded highway that was turned into a virtual river.
Sixteen people were killed and four fishermen missing as Typhoon Nesat reached the eastern flank of central and northern Luzon's Aurora and Isabela provinces Tuesday morning, before moving on northwest to Baguio City in the afternoon, officials said.
With evacuees already in the thousands, hundreds more were stranded in urban areas, while Manila's US embassy and Makati City's five-star hotels were flooded.
Electric posts fell resulting in power outages and old trees were uprooted as Nesat's diameter of 650km reached Metro Manila along with rainfall of 15 to 25mm per hour and winds of 120kph, with occasionally gusts of 150kph.
Undersecretary Benito Ramos of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said a total of 13,629 families or 64,431 people were affected across 153 villages, 25 municipalities and 10 cities in nine province and five regions, most in the north.
One of Nesat's first victms when it landed on northern Luzon was Delia Casas Delia, 59, who died in a car accident caused by the storm and rain in Paoay, Ilocos Norte. Brian Angel, 19, died in a landslide near his home in Olongapo, Zambales, in northern Luzon. In Metro Manila, 500km south of northern Luzon, James de los Santos, 3, Romel Naya, 4, BJ de los Santos, 6, and their grandmother Demelita Naya, 63, died when a wall collapsed on them while they were leaving their flooded home in Valenzuela City, yesterday morning.
A woman, identified as Maricor, died when a tree fell on her and her son in Amparo Village in Metro Manila, also yesterday. Rescuers found the little boy alive under the tree after three hours.
Earlier, when Typhoon Nesat was in the Pacific Ocean near southern Luzon's east coast, Chawn Daliore, a year-and-ten-months old girl, drowned in a flooded creek in Catanduanes.
Rescue operations succeeded in saving 104 people, 59 of them in Pangasinan, northern Luzon, 12 in Quezon, southern Luzon, and 33 in Bicol Region, southern Luzon, said the NDRRMC chief.
Disaster alert Signal No.3 was raised in many provinces in the north where the number of casualties could further rise, said the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).
Signal No.2 was up in Metro Manila and parts of southern Luzon and Signal No.1 remained in lower southern Luzon. Typhoon Nesat is expected to exit into the China Sea today, Pagasa said.
Despite the storm making landfall in the north, far from the capital, it affected Metro Manila and its 12 million residents.
The whole of Roxas Boulevard overlooking Manila Bay was flooded and looked like a river, said Alma Mateo, who was stranded there for five hours. Rescuers helped US Embassy staff leave the premises on the boulevard, he said.
The basement of the five-star Sofitel hotel at the Cultural Centre Complex, on Roxas Boulevard was also flooded and its guests transferred to another hotel. The Metropolitan Museum in the vicinity was also flooded and some valuable art works destroyed.
Manila Hospital on the boulevard was flooded neck-deep, a spokeswoman said on TV.