Residents wade in waist-deep water as they try to reach their homes in submerged shanties in Valenzuela. Torrential rains flooded much of the Philippine capital and surrounding areas on Tuesday, forcing nearly 270,000 people to flee their homes. Image Credit: REUTERS

Manila: Twenty three were killed, including seven missing, and 1.2 million were affected as all provinces in northern, central, and southern Luzon, nine areas in Metro Manila and several provinces in central Philippines were heavily flooded, paralysed and placed under a state of calamity.

Massive rescue operations intensified in affected areas to ease weather-beaten and stranded residents on rooftops in slum areas, middle class enclaves, and high-end gated mansions, sources told Gulf News.

The number of dead triggered by Typhoon Haikui, including a families that were buried by a landslide in a slum area on Commonwealth Village in suburban Quezon City raised to 76 the total number of those who perished since Typhoon Saola brought a week of rains and killed 53 people before it exited and hit Taiwan end of July.

After 12 days of rains (since the start of Typhoon Saola’s wrath), the sun peeped briefly at eight Wednesday morning, making sleepless government officials, rescuers, and reporters joyful.

The state-run Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) also raised on Wednesday morning a “yellow rainfall warning (or better weather)” from Tuesday’s “green rainfall warning signal (or bad weather),” as Typhoon Haikui, cited earlier at 300 kilometres northwest of Taiwan, and blamed for the unprecedented fatal floods in the Philippines, finally made a land fall at China’s east coast.

But in the afternoon, PAGASA posted the status of “red rainfall warning signal” again on Metro Manila after three hours of heavy rains hit Metro Manila’s cities of Caloocan, Quezon, Malabon, Manila, Marikina, Muntinlupa, Pasig, and Valenzuela starting 12 noon.

“This is another day of heavy rains, but rescue and relief operations will continue because 80 percent of Metro Manila is still under water. There is devastation in the provinces,” said Undersecretary Benito Ramos, head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC).

Taking advantage of the brief fair weather on Wednesday morning, President Benigno Aquino, accompanied by his sister Kris, a TV personality and actress, visited until late afternoon several evacuation centres in Metro Manila’s Muntinlupa, Marikina, Quezon City, and Malabon. It was the first time for the bachelor president to visit disaster-whipped areas.

At the height of floods on Tuesday, nine couples were married in a mass wedding given by local leaders to poor people at the Sto. Domingo Church in suburban Quezon City, a TV report said.

As this merry event happened, residents of East Riverside, a nearby slum area built on a creek, hoisted the sick, the young, and the old away from the rampaging flood with the help of ropes tied like a web on shanties.

This kind of self-help rescue operation was noted in almost all depressed areas.

Meanwhile, the gated mansion of lawyer Pacifico Agabin, the former counsel of former president Joseph Estrada when the latter underwent impeachment trial at the Senate in 2000, was flooded as water entered the Provident Village in suburban Marikina, considered as Metro manila’s catch-basin.

Rescuers were aboard motorized rubber boats when they entered submerged shanty-filled slum areas and also middle and upper class villages. They plucked people out of their illegal homes under several bridges in Metro Manila.

“Major roads in Metro Manila remained un-passable. They still look like virtual rivers. Bridges in northern and southern Luzon were heavily damaged,” said Ramos of the NDRRMC.

In Luzon, five dams, including Ipo, Ambuklao, Binga, San Roque and Magat, rached critical level and released water, causing floods in a wide ranging area such as 10 towns in Pangasinan Province; 10 towns in Isabela province, both in northern Luzon; and coastal areas down to Hagonoy, suburban Bulacan (just north of Manila), said Ramos, adding that residents near dams that overflowed were told to evacuate.

A total of 1,230,813 persons were affected by the widespread non-stop rains and flooding. A total of 242,211 persons stayed in government buildings, gymnasiums, and schools that were turned into evacuation centres. Some 607,941 persons left their heavily flooded homes and stayed with friends and relatives living on safer grounds, said Ramos.

Bank operation and bourse trading resumed on Wednesday. Heavy traffic followed the opening of government and private offices in Metro Manila. But classes in all levels remained suspended in all affected areas.

On Wednesday, the government imposed price control on basic commodities in areas which declared a state of calamity, Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo said, adding that he would convened the National Price Coordinating Council as he warned traders and retailers not to take undue advantage of the situation.

But prices of fresh water fish and vegetables went up slightly because suppliers could not delivery food to area that are still under water, vendors said.

Effects of Typhoon Haikui which never entered the Philippines were compared to Typhoon Ketsana which killed 747 people when it hit the country in late 2009.

About 21 typhoons ravage the Philippines every year. They usually originate from the Pacific Ocean towards southern Philippines if coming from Guam, and from the Pacific Ocean’s northern area.

Typhoons either move northward towards Taiwan, Japan, or China, or lower eastward towards other Southeast Asian Nations like Cambodia and Vietnam.