Pounding rains in the Philippines have driven more than 260,000 people from their homes and claimed dozens of lives as landslides buried homes and streets turned into swamps, disaster officials said Tuesday.
Benito Ramos, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, told reporters the nation “looks like waterworld,” calling to mind the 1995 Kevin Costner film about a future where Earth is covered by water.
The deadly downpour has blocked roads and shuttered schools and offices, paralyzing Manila with rainfall as heavy as 2 inches an hour. Water reportedly was neck deep in some areas. Philippine media ran images of people stranded on metal roofs, floating on makeshift rafts and clinging to trees and lamp posts as the muddy water rose.
Authorities reported at least 53 deaths as of Tuesday morning, most of them due to drowning in the aftermath of Typhoon Saola last week. Monsoon rains have continued to hammer the country since.
The death toll ticked even higher Tuesday when a family of nine was buried by a landside in their Quezon City home; at least two other people were reported to have been electrocuted. Dozens more people were injured by falling trees, mudslides and other effects of the raging floods.
President Benigno Aquino III assured Filipinos that the government was doing everything possible to cope with the flooding. The government has been criticized for its handling of previous disasters.
“They shouldn’t just respond to crises, they should prepare for them,” Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform in Manila, told Bloomberg, complaining that infrastructure had improved little under Aquino.
The United States pledged Tuesday to provide $100,000 for disaster relief; Philippine disaster officials said government agencies and nonprofits have given more than $400,000 to aid affected families.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Residents try to cross through floodwaters as others wait on the roofs of their houses after a river overflowed in Manila on Tuesday. Credit: Noel Celis / Agence France-Presse