Rains from Typhoon Vamco (Ulysses) Flood Manila Capital Region

Luis Liwanag and Marielle Lucenio
Manila
2020-11-12
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201112-PH-typhoon-620.jpg Police and other rescuers deploy a rubber boat in a flooded section of the city of Marikina, east of Manila, Nov. 12, 2020.
Luis Liwanag/BenarNews

Typhoon Vamco soaked the Philippines with heavy rain that flooded a wide area of the densely populated Manila region overnight and forced rescuers to use rubber boats to pluck people to safety on Thursday.

At least 13 people had died in the third typhoon to pummel the Philippines in as many weeks, authorities said. The Associated Press reported the death toll and noted that 15 people were missing, as the news service cited figures provided by the Philippine National Police.

“We’re hoping that because of the preemptive evacuations that have been done and people staying in evacuation centers, we would have minimal to zero casualties in the area,” said Mark Timbal, spokesman for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Families in the eastern Bicol region had moved into evacuation centers ahead of the storm’s landfall, he noted.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año offered hope for those who needed to be rescued.

“Many of our fellow Filipinos are stranded on their roofs. Don’t worry, help from all of our assets is on the way and they will be dispatched and deployed in these areas,” Año said.

Locally known as Ulysses, Typhoon Vamco packed winds of up to 155 kph (96 mph) as it cut a swathe across the main island of Luzon, the state weather bureau said. It made landfall in the vicinity of Quezon province late Wednesday and moved westward.

In a statement at 11 p.m. on Thursday (local time), the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said regions including Batanes, Babuyan Islands, northern and eastern areas of mainland Cagayan and the eastern portion of Isabela could see moderate to heavy rain through Friday afternoon that could cause flash floods.

PAGASA said the storm was forecast to exit the Philippines on Friday morning.

UN figures

As many as 19.1 million people, or 3.61 million households, were exposed to Vamco, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Philippines. Based on forecasts, the U.N. said areas could absorb nine inches of rain while harder-hit areas could get as many as 12 inches.

Some of the low-lying cities in the capital region have seen water levels rise to 15 feet as rivers flooded, rescuers said.

Particularly hard hit was the suburban city of Marikina, a low-lying valley in eastern Metro Manila that is a natural catch basin for water from a mountain range that borders it. The heavy rain caused a major river in the city to burst its banks.

“We didn’t expect the water would rise this fast since the super typhoon didn’t even hit us last week. We thought it was going to be weaker,” Corazon Doñez, 69, told BenarNews after she evacuated with her two dogs.

“We were warned at 2 a.m. and we were able to evacuate at 4 a.m.,” she said.

Vamco, the 21st cyclone to hit the Philippines this year, struck days after Goni, the world’s most powerful typhoon to date in 2020, ripped through the region on Nov. 1 and left 25 people dead.

Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro waded into floodwaters on Thursday.

“We are making use of this opportunity since the rain has stopped to vigorously undertake the rescue operations,” he said, noting that many were trapped on “the roofs of their houses.”

“There are still many more residents that are trapped,” he said.

Vehicles and people stay on a bridge in Metro Manila to avoid floodwaters brought by Typhoon Vamco as others wait on rooftops to be rescued, Nov. 12, 2020. (Ace Morandante/Malacanang Presidential Photographers Division via AP)
Vehicles and people stay on a bridge in Metro Manila to avoid floodwaters brought by Typhoon Vamco as others wait on rooftops to be rescued, Nov. 12, 2020. (Ace Morandante/Malacanang Presidential Photographers Division via AP)

By Thursday afternoon, the military had sent trucks and rubber boats to the affected areas and deployed personnel to assist in rescue efforts.

“Evacuation is ongoing, with the Naval Task Group joining city disaster risk and reduction units with their rubber boats, trucks and personnel,” military chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay said in a statement.

In Marikina, two disaster-response units, augmented by volunteers, were deployed, he said.

Red Cross chairman Sen. Richard Gordon said volunteers from his group were participating in the rescue efforts as well.

“We have advised people to evacuate, especially in other flood prone areas,” Gordon said.

Duterte responds

President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile in a speech on Thursday, told fellow leaders who were participating in a virtual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that he might have to break away because of the storm. He later traveled by helicopter to assess Vamco’s damage.

“This calamity is yet another stark reminder of the urgency of collective action to combat the effects of climate change,” he told ASEAN members. “We must therefore further enhance our cooperation on disaster risk reduction management to reinforce our capacities, both at the national and regional levels.”

Later, in an address to the nation, Duterte sought to assure people that his government was responding to the storm.

“My countrymen, while we are facing the heavy downpour and strong winds of Ulysses, I assure everyone that the government is on top of the situation,” he said. “There are those who say that we’re not doing anything that we are just sleeping, we don’t have any sleep here.

“We will get through this crisis, I assure you,” Duterte said.

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