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Thousands Flee Manila Flooding; Desperate Residents Trapped on Roofs

Phillippine Red Cross

At least a third of this overpopulated capital and its suburbs were submerged on Tuesday as torrential rains battered the city and floodwaters poured in from almost all sides. A silted lake in the south sent water coursing into an overflowing river that slices through Manila; water poured from the open floodgates of a dam to the north, and high tide brought flooding from the bay to the west.

The combination kept rescue workers in rubber boats struggling to pluck panicked people from rushing waters that sometimes swirled around their necks and turned major roads into virtual rivers.

More than 50 people have already died in more than a week of intense storms, monsoon rains and flooding, and at least 250,000 have been evacuated in just the past several days, officials said.

Photographs of some of the hardest-hit areas showed people clutching ropes and whatever else they could to keep from being swept away in fast currents; one man clung to the top of a metal pole that once supported a basketball hoop. Another photo showed dozens of people under a sea of umbrellas waiting in waist-deep water for trapped relatives to be rescued from their homes.

“It’s like Waterworld,” said Benito Ramos, who heads the government’s disaster relief agency, referring to the Hollywood movie with Kevin Costner depicting a submerged earth.