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Philippines struggles in typhoon aftermath

October 02, 2011

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Nesat and Nalgae were two of the most powerful typhoons this year, bringing torrential rains to vast areas in Luzon, including in Manila, where storm surges broke through the sea wall last week. - AP photo

CALUMPIT: Rescuers struggled Sunday to evacuate tens of thousands of people trapped in their homes in the Philippines as more floods were forecast in the aftermath of Typhoon Nalgae.

Fanning out across inundated towns just a few hours' north of the capital Manila using small boats and trucks, officials issued desperate pleas for those still refusing to leave their homes to be relocated to safety.

Nalgae blew out of the Philippines after a six-hour rampage across the country's main Luzon island Saturday, bringing fresh troubles for more than a million people affected by Typhoon Nesat which had struck five days earlier.

Nalgae soaked the Cordillera mountain range, and water cascading from the slopes was expected to further swell tributaries and rivers in the central Luzon plains before draining into Manila Bay later Sunday.

“We are asking everyone still refusing to leave their homes to let authorities evacuate them,” Office of Civil Defense administrator Benito Ramos told AFP as he inspected the farming town of Calumpit, two hours' drive north of Manila, which has been flooded for days.

“Water from the Cordilleras could reach the plains today and there is a possibility that there won't be any more rooftops left to see if that catches up with water from Nesat that's just now subsiding,” he said.

As the sun broke through the clouds early Sunday, thousands waded through waist-deep waters in search of food and drinking water but found out that even the town hall was inundated.

Residents grappled with ropes rigged on lamp posts so as not to be swept away by the strong current, while others carried improvised flotation devices such as empty water bottles.

Those with access to small canoes ferried supplies to stranded relatives, or moved out pets and livestock.

Volunteers on rubber boats went from one flooded home to another to hand over relief items, including dry clothes and instant noodles.

A white coffin was also seen rigged on a canoe, but the grieving relatives had nowhere to take the dead with the cemetery also waterlogged.

“I have been trapped here for the last four days,” said Ropalyn Sebastian, a 26-year-old toll booth clerk who was visiting a friend in Calumpit when Nesat struck last week.

“My family is in the next town, and the last I heard from them was they were stranded in the second floor of our home.”Sebastian said she braved the water Sunday hoping it would subside, only to hear warnings of more floods expected later in the day.

“Help is slow to arrive, and even the municipal hall is flooded,” she said.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council in Manila recorded only one death from Nalgae, but said Nesat left at least 52 people dead after it unleashed strong winds and devastating floods.

More than 2.4 million people were affected by Nesat, nearly half a million of them still staying in evacuation centres, while the rest opted to wait out the floods in their homes.

The Philippines endures an average of about 20 typhoons of the year, some of them causing widespread destruction and deaths.

Nesat and Nalgae were two of the most powerful typhoons this year, bringing torrential rains to vast areas in Luzon, including in Manila, where storm surges broke through the sea wall last week.