Philippines evacuates thousands as monsoon rains flood cities, provinces

The national disaster agency said 14,023 people had moved into evacuation centres.
The national disaster agency said 14,023 people had moved into evacuation centres.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MANILA (REUTERS) - The Philippine authorities moved thousands of residents of the capital, Manila, out of their low-lying communities on Saturday (July 24) as heavy monsoon rain, compounded by a tropical storm, flooded the city and nearby provinces.

The national disaster agency said 15,000 people, most of them from a flood-prone Manila suburb, had moved into evacuation centres.

“We decided to evacuate early,” said Luzviminda Tayson, 61. “We don’t want the waters to rise and be caught,” said Tayson, one of about 2,900 evacuees who were reminded to practice physical distancing as they took refuge in a primary school in Marikina city.

Harsh weather has hit several parts of the world in recent weeks, bringing floods to China, India and Western Europe and heatwaves to North America, raising new fears about the impact of climate change.

The Philippines, a South-east Asian archipelago of more than 7,600 islands, sees about 20 tropical storms a year but a warmer Pacific Ocean will make storms more powerful and bring heavier rain, meteorologists say.

In some parts of the Philippine capital region, an urban sprawl of more than 13 million people, flood waters, in places waist-deep, cut off roads to light vehicles.

The Philippines is also grappling with one of the worst outbreaks of Covid-19 in Asia, and has tightened curbs to prevent the spread of the more infectious Delta variant.

With more than 1.54 million cases and 27,131 deaths, the Philippines has the second highest number of Covid-19 infections and fatalities in South-east Asia, after Indonesia.

"We ask residents of affected areas to remain alert and vigilant, take precautionary measures and cooperate with their respective local authorities," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement.

Mr Roque said the public works ministry was busy clearing debris and landslides from roads in the provinces.

"Some houses were flooded up to the roof," Mr Humerlito Dolor, governor of Oriental Mindoro province south of the capital, told DZMM radio station.