Metro Manila prepares for ‘worst,’ thousands evacuate

Bea Cupin
Metro Manila prepares for ‘worst,’ thousands evacuate
Local executives say enforced evacuations will happen by 5 pm in communities that continue to refuse to transfer to safer areas

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) Cities in Metro Manila continued preemptive evacuations of flood-prone areas on Monday, December 8, hours before Tropical Storm Ruby (Hagupit) is expected to hit the Philippine capital.

Ruby, with maximum sustained winds of 105 kilometers per hour, is inching closer to Metro Manila, although it is not expected to make landfall. Signal number 3 is currently hoisted over the region, which is home to close to P12 million people. 

“We’re looking at a worst-case scenario,” Johnny Yu, chief of the Manila Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) said. “We want zero casualty. We’re trying to evacuate because tonight is the high tide.” (READ: High tide to aggravate Ruby impact in Metro)

Yu noted that it’s rare for local government units to enforce a “general evacuation,” something they would do in case of earthquakes or tsunamis.

There are also 12 barangays (villages) in Metro Manila that have been identified to be prone to landslides.

In Manila, only 20-30% of families and individuals that need to evacuate to safer areas have done so, Yu said. The rest will have to be forced if they don’t heed orders, according to Yu.

In an earlier press conference, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) chief Alexander Pama said the cities of Manila, Parañaque and Navotas have already begun preemptive evacuations as earlier as Sunday evening, December 7.

In the city of Manila, more than 2,500 families from hazard-prone barangays were evacuated starting Sunday afternoon.

As of 6pm Monday, the NDRRMC said close to 8,000 people in Metro Manila have been evacuated. 

Thirty-five-year-old Marilyn Vicente, who lives in flood-prone Baseco in Manila, has been in the Baseco Evacuation Center since Sunday afternoon. Vicente, her husband, and 4 children were crowded inside one of the center’s rooms alongside 37 families. 

The situation is not ideal, she told Rappler, but it’s better than staying at home, where it floods even after a slight drizzle. Other coastal barangays that were evacuated include Parola and Happy Land, said Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno. 

The NDRRMC earlier warned Metro Manila mayors of possible flooding as Ruby comes closest between 8 pm and 10 pm. The 10 pm high tide on Monday is expected to aggravate the effects of the storm. 

Flood-prone Navotas city, as of Monday afternoon, has evacuated at least 300 families in coastal barangays Tansa, San Roque, Daang Hari, San Jose and Sipac. 

“I spoke to the barangay captains this morning because even if the storm is moving slower, the high tide may be a concern. Before it starts raining and the sun’s out, I want families to be evacuated,” Navotas Mayor John Rey Tiangco told Rappler. 

RESTLESS NIGHT. Families set up temporary sleeping areas in a school in Marikina in anticipation of heavy rain Monday night. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

Marikina, which saw heavy flooding during Typhoon Ondoy in 2009, has already relocated families in hazard-prone areas. 

The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Joint Task Force for NCR (JTF-NCR), meanwhile, has 8 M35 trucks ready to augment the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s forces.

Local executives admit they still encounter resistance from some residents, who refuse to move until the last minute. But they said they will force these communities to evacauate should the weather take a turn for the worse.

Four of the JTF-NCR’s trucks and 4 platoons are also ready to assist local governments with forced evacuationsRappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.