MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – It was bedlam Tuesday, August 20, in Metro Manila as the region of 12 million people ground to a halt, with relentless rain flooding its highways and streets, immobilizing commuters, forcing evacuations and shutting down schools, offices and airports.
By Tuesday noon, more than 200,000 Metro Manila residents have evacuated to safe areas, after flooding caused by the southwest monsoon and tropical storm Maring (international name Trami), based on various estimates of national and local government officials.
Muntinlupa, Parañaque, and Pateros in Taguig were also put under a state of calamity. This means, among others, that they will be immediately receiving calamity funds.
Those traumatized by tropical storm Ondoy in 2009 didn’t want to take any chances. “Siyempre po kabado kami,” said Noel Olandez, a resident of Tumana, Marikina. “Takot na takot po kami. Mahirap maranasan uli ang ganoong buhay.” (Of course we’re nervous. We’re very, very scared. We don’t want to go through it again.)
By 3:44 pm Tuesday, the Marikina River’s water level had risen to 18.5 meters, prompting an evacuation alert for residents living in areas surrounding the river.
Some 519 families, or 2,630 persons, were evacuated to H. Bautista Elementary School in Concepcion Uno, Marikina as of 12:22 pm.
Flood waters in Malanday, Marikina reached as high as the chest level, prompting government to send rescue trucks to evacuate residents in the area. But many refused to ride the trucks, according to our reporter Paterno Esmaquel II. Only two families took the trip to a safe place, he added.
A state of calamity has also been declared in Muntinlupa, where 7,500 families have been affected by floods.
Makati: Like 2012
In Makati, flood waters rose to as high as 3 feet in some barangays, prompting the evacuation of at least 711 families from 7 barangays. These 7 barangays are Bangkal, Comembo, Guadalupe Viejo, Palanan, Pembo, Pio del Pilar, and Rizal.
In 3 weather stations in Makati, rainfall levels were already approaching those recorded during the 2012 “Habagat,” according to the Manila Observatory. The stations are located in barangays West Rembo and Forbes Park; and the Makati City Hall.
Families in Manila were forced to evacuate in centers in Delpan, Baseco, Isla Puting Bato, Sitio di Ayan, and Lagusnilad.
The major thoroughfares in Las Piñas remained flooded Tuesday afternoon, specifically Zapote and Tramo roads. At least 7,000 residents were brought to evacuation centers due to roads that had become impassable. Most of the establishments in the city had to close by Tuesday morning, according to Las Piñas City councilor Mark Santos.
Families in 10 barangays in Pasig also had to flee their homes. These are in barangays Buting, Sn Joaquin, Palatiw, Sn Miguel, Kalawaan, Pinagbuhatan, Manggahan, Dela Paz, Bambang and Santolan.
Waters subsided in the afternoon in Pasig, but residents living near the Manggahan Floodway still in danger (barangays Santolan, Manggahan, and Rosario) remained in danger.
In Pateros, close to 3,000 residents in 8 barangays have been evacuated, according to local social welfare officials.
All work virtually stopped, too, and airlines cancelled all domestic flights departing from Manila. The Ninoy Aquino International Airport had to put on hold all domestic and international flights because all roads leading to the area were flooded.
Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific waived rebooking fees for passengers who failed to take their flights. Tiger Air said it would issue refunds to passengers affected by flight cancellations.
The heavy rains Tuesday were unprecedented, Project Noah Head Dr Mahar Lagmay said.
In an interview on ANC on Tuesday, Lagmay said that the voluminous monsoon rains brought by the southwest Habagat winds has not been seen in the country’s history.
“We’ve been having Habagat a long time ago. Over the past 100 years, it’s only now we experience Habagat deliver really heavy rains,” said Lagmay.
Lagmay added that scientists have yet to determine the exact cause of this phenomenon but some speculate it may be related to the rising sea surface temperature due to climate change.
He also said that the metropolis’ geography also affects the wet weather as Metro Manila is a valley plain surrounded by mountain ranges in Zambales and Quezon provinces. Moisture evaporating from the seas is accumulated near the mountain ranges and condenses into heavy clouds as it moves inland.
It wasn’t all gloomy though.
The country’s top stars took to Twitter to tweet prayers and support. “Rise, Philippines, rise,” tweeted KC Concepcion.
“Prayer warriors let’s continue to pray for those that are being and have already been affected by Tropical Storm Maring,” tweeted Anne Curtis. – with reports from Pia Ranada, Michael Bueza, Marga Deona, Bea Cupin, Paterno Esmaquel II, Rey Santos Jr./Rappler.com