MANILA: After a typhoon killed at least 42 people and caused widespread floods that sent people fleeing to their roofs, officials said, dense mud and rubble covered several villages across the Philippine capital on Friday.
Tens of thousands of civilians, typhoon including those who overwhelmed radio and TV networks and social media with urgent calls for aid, were rescued by soldiers, police, coast guard and emergency response teams.
After Typhoon Vamco blew up into the South China Sea on Friday, floodwaters receded and the weather cleared in many areas, but the military said it was still saving people stranded in some flooded villages.
In a meeting with disaster-response authorities, military chief of staff Gen. Gilbert Gapay said amphibious assault vehicles normally used in counter-insurgency operations were used for relief service.
We will continue to search for the lost, assist in the evaluation of injury, said Gapay.
It was confirmed by the national police that the death toll had risen to at least 42, with 20 missing. A much lower death toll, creating uncertainty, was announced by the government’s largest emergency relief department, which awaits regional assessments and follows a laborious method of confirming casualties.
Among the dead were at least 12 villagers in the northern provinces of Cagayan and Nueva Vizcaya who had been digging out of the mud and rockslides, police said.
Vamco gathered power after crashing into the northeastern province of Quezon with sustained winds of 155 kilometres per hour and gusts of up to 255 kph (158 mph). Overnight on Wednesday, it blew north of metropolitan Manila, toppling trees and power lines, overflowing rivers, crippling rural areas and setting off landslides and storm surges.
Several villages were inundated with water in the hard-hit Marikina town in the capital area and the towns of Rodriguez and Cainta in neighbouring Rizal province, hitting the second and third floors of several homes, causing hundreds of residents to flee to their roofs and contact TV and radio networks or post urgent messages on social media. The panic was compounded by widespread power outages and internet connection losses.
Marikina’s videos revealed a heavy layer of dirty water that coated roads and stained houses and vehicles. Residents carried appliances and chairs from their dwellings and after the flood receded, used pails and shovels to clear the mud.
In Friday’s televised meeting of Cabinet and disaster management officials, a reporter asked President Rodrigo Duterte where he was, provoking his spokesman’s irritated response.
The whereabouts of the president need not be questioned. That’s nonsense that comes from the opposition. The president is not absent, he is still with us,’ said Harry Roque, the presidential spokesman, without giving any more information.
Before the typhoon arrived, more than 400,000 individuals were evacuated to higher ground, primarily inhabitants of vulnerable coastal and low-lying areas.
In the capital and outlying provinces, at least 3.8 million households lost power, although in certain cases, crews later restored electricity. Government departments remained closed and most classes were cancelled on Friday.
Vamco struck the Philippines on the heels of this year’s Typhoon Goni, one of the world’s strongest typhoons, which left 270,000 houses dead or missing and injured or killed more than 30 lives. When Vamco hit, tens of thousands of people were already homeless.