Heavy rains leave 33 dead in Zambales


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(UPDATED) Many houses remain submerged. Rescuers from neighboring provinces have arrived to help in search and rescue operations

SWOLLEN RIVER. A swollen river, caused by continuous monsoon rains, flows through Olongapo City, September 23, 2013. Photo courtesy KC Sarmiento

OLONGAPO CITY, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Monsoon rains worsened by Typhoon Usagi (Philippine codename Odette) pounded parts of the country for the third day on Monday, September 23, causing floods and landslides that left at least 33 people dead and others stranded on rooftops, officials said.

The most severely affected area was the province of Zambales, about 80 kilometers (51 miles) northwest of Manila where heavy rains caused rain-soaked soil to cascade down.

As of 11 am Tuesday, September 24, local officials reported the following casualties:

  • Subic – 19
  • Castillejos – 7
  • San Marcelino – 4
  • Olongapo – 3

As of posting, houses in Sta Monica subdivision in Barangay Matain, Subic, were still submerged.

Rescuers from the neighboring local goverments – Bulacan province and Palayan City in Nueva Ecija – as well as the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority were dispatched to help local authorities in search and rescue operations.

In the province of Bataan, next to Zambales, at least 4 towns were flooded as well.

READ: Bataan towns submerged; thousands of families affected

Earlier, Zambales assistant civil defense director Nigel Lontoc spoke to Agence France-Presse about 17 people who died in landslides in different parts of the province: “They were surprised by the rain. It happened before dawn so they might have been asleep at the time.”

“This is mountainous area and there are many houses on the slopes. The rain must have really weakened the soil,” he added.

A 67-year-old woman drowned when her home was submerged by a flood in Olongapo City, also in Zambales, he added.

READ: Olongapo under state of calamity

Mayor Jay Khonghun of Subic town, where the majority of victims died, said the heavy rains and chest-deep floods had isolated the town of 160,000.

Although many people were rescued, about a hundred remained trapped on their rooftops by the rising waters, he said.

Government employee Cristina Humbert, 35, said the ground floor of her two-story home had been flooded but she managed to evacuate with her 63-year-old mother to higher ground.

“Many are on the rooftops, waiting for help. They are marooned, and are getting hungry and cold. We have no power, no electricity,” she told Agence France-Presse.

FLOODED STREET. Flood waters cover a street in West Bajac-Bajac, Olongapo City, September 23, 2013. Photo courtesy Jennafer Ilagan

Khonghun said four rivers that pass through Subic were heavily silted and had overflowed, causing the floods. He called on the national government to come to the town’s aid.

“We are appealing for rescuers, equipment, diggers, we need relief goods. We need help from the national government, please send in inflatable boats,” he said.

Classes were called off throughout the Philippine capital and surrounding areas due to flooding that reached more than 5 ft (1.5 m) in some places, said Myrna Puzon, an officer at the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

READ: Nonstop rain floods Metro Manila again

In the city Olongapo, neighboring Subic, local officials put up ropes across flooded streets so people could hold on to them to keep from being swept away by strong currents, eyewitnesses said.

People there carried their shivering children as they waded through the floodwaters amid submerged cars, an Agence France-Presse reporter at the scene said.

Olongapo City Mayor Rolen Paulino asked US ambassador Harry Thomas to send some of the US Marines now in the Philippines for joint war games, to help in relief efforts, his spokesman said.

About 2,300 US and Philippine marines are taking part in 3-week long joint exercises, many of them to be conducted in Zambales.

Typhoon Usagi passed the northern Philippines this weekend and has moved away from the country but it continues to exacerbate monsoon rains.

Two people were killed and three are still missing from the storm’s onslaught. – with reports from Randy V. Datu and Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

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