Authorities warned of landslides and potentially deadly storm surges along the coast. Heavy rain effectively shut down Manila, the sprawling capital of 12 million people, and surrounding areas, turning streets into rivers.
“A lot of places are submerged. Many people are crying for help,” said Rouel Santos, 53, a retired disaster officer in Rizal province, next to the capital.
Santos said the flooding caused by Vamco brought back memories of the devastating Typhoon Ketsana, known in the Philippines as Tropical Storm Ondoy, that hit in 2009 and claimed hundreds of lives.
The Philippine Red Cross, police, military and other rescuers used boats to reach people stranded in their homes in Marikina City, one of the hardest-hit areas of the capital, where the water in some streets was up to shoulder height.
Residents who were able to escape on foot carried pet dogs, televisions, bicycles and other belongings as they waded through the murky, debris-strewn water.
“The magnitude of what we’re experiencing now is comparable to Ondoy,” Marikina City Mayor Marcelino Teodoro told CNN Philippines. “We have so many people who until now are stranded on their rooftops or trapped on the second floor of their houses. Some areas that were historically not flooded, such as the City Hall, are submerged.”
Requests for help were “pouring in”, said Casiano Monilla, Civil Defence deputy administrator for operations. He said many people had not heeded warnings to evacuate ahead of the typhoon, urging them to do so “while there’s still time”.
“I didn’t expect it to be like this,” said Rosalinda Opsima, who fled her home with her husband after the fast-rising water caught them by surprise.
The weather service warned of life-threatening storm surges along parts of the coast, includdeing in Manila, that could inundate low-lying areas. Flood warnings were also issued for a number of towns north of the capital as authorities released water from fast-filling dams.
The Bicol region, which Vamco grazed before making landfall, was hit by powerful winds and heavy rain on Wednesday as the eye of the typhoon neared the disaster-prone archipelago.
Swathes of Bicol remain without power and with only limited or no telecommunication services after Goni – the most powerful typhoon so far this year – toppled power lines, flattened houses and flooded roads.
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