• ‘Mario’ slams Metro Manila

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    rescue volunteers use a rubber boat to transport people stranded at a flooded portion of damayang Lagi in e. rodriguez, Quezon City on Friday. PHoto by Mike De Juan

    Non-stop rains from Storm Mario and an intensified southwest monsoon brought floods to most of Metro Manila on Friday that killed at least two people and shut down offices and schools.

    Mario (international codename: Fung- Wong) began pounding the country’s premier region on Thursday night as it approached Northern Luzon.

    Packing winds of 85 kilometers per hour gusting to 100 kph, the storm made landfall in Cagayan on Friday morning.

    Marikina worst hit
    Marikina City, which was swept by floods from Typhoon  in 2009, was again the center of rescue operations after the Marikina River burst its banks.

    Rescue workers in trucks and rubber dinghies spent most of Friday plucking residents from the tops of flooded Marikina homes.

    The flooding had forced at least 50,000 people to flee their homes in Metro Manila, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said.

    2 dead in Quezon City
    In Quezon City, a child and a man drowned as floodwaters swelled esteros and creeks.

    Elmo San Diego, chief of the city’s Department of Public Order and Safety (DPOS), said the bodies of Andrea Gaviola, 2 years old, of Barangay Bagong Silangan, and Jay R Aguirre, 34, of Barangay Tatalon, were recovered early Friday morning.

    San Diego added that rescue teams were still searching for an unidentified person who was seen being carried away by floodwaters.

    He  said 5,000 families in the flood-prone barangay (villages) of Roxas, Dona Imelda, Kaingin, Tatalon, Bagong Silangan and Apolonio Samson were evacuated.

    San Diego added that some residents refused to leave their houses as the floodwaters began to rise on Thursday night and made rescue and emergency operations more difficult

    La Mesa dam overflows
    To make matters worse, La Mesa Dam, the reservoir for Metro Manila, overflowed, threatening to swamp makeshift houses near the Tullahan River.

    The dam level reached 80.17 meters before noon. La Mesa’s spilling level is 80.15 meters.

    The overflow threatened North Fairview, Novaliches, in Quezon City and neighboring villages in Caloocan City, Malabon City, Navotas City and Valenzuela City.

    Classes called off
    As the rains fell without let-up before dawn Friday, Malacanang suspended all classes in Metro Manila and nearby areas.

    Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., acting on recommendation of National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), called off classes in Metro Manila, Zambales, Bataan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, Batangas, Laguna, Quezon, including Polillo Island, Mindoro  provinces, Camarines Norte, Marinduque and Pangasinan.

    Manila streets submerged
    Floods, which were neck-deep in some places, closed main streets in the city of Manila.

    Small cars could not pass Taft Avenue, Quirino Avenue and major and secondary roads in areas of España, Ermita, Malate, Sampaloc, Tondo, Santa Mesa, Nagtahan, Roxas Boulevard, Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard and Santa Cruz, including Binondo.

    Some alleys along V. Mapa were under three feet of floodwaters.

    Evacuation centers set up
    The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said 94,747 families or 436,539 persons were affected by the storm.

    The department has opened 25 evacuation centers in Metro Manila that sheltered 1,276 families or 6,406 persons.

    In Rizal, four evacuation centers are operational serving 385 families or 1,925 persons.

    In Central Visayas, five evacuation centers remained open.

    Mario not as rainy as Ondoy
    The rains from  were half those of , the weather bureau reported on Friday.

    Pagasa had raised a red rainfall warning, which carries the threat of
    severe flooding, over Metro Manila, Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal for Mario.

    Its Science Garden in Quezon City recorded 268 millimeters of rain from  from 8 p.m. Thursday to 8 a.m. Friday,

    Aldczar Aurelio, Pagasa weather forecaster, said brought more than half of the 451.2-mm average rainfall for the entire month of September .

    But the rainfall did not match what  dumped on Metro Manila in 2009.

    brought 375 mm of rain over just 6 hours, and a total of 465 mm over 24 hours. This means that it dumped more than a month’s volume of rain in just one day, Aurelio said.

    Dramatic rescues
    Rescuers aboard rubber dinghies, some motorized and some powered by paddles, plucked people from flooded homes, an Agence France-Presse reporting team said.

    People held on to lengths of rope to get to high ground safely and avoid being pulled by the strong currents, and the roofs of cars and other vehicles bobbed above the floodwaters.

    Ghelynne del Rosario saw their northern Manila family bungalow swamped by chest-deep floods after she, her mother, her grandmother in her eighties and their three dogs sought refuge on the second floor of a neighbor’s house.

    “I am angry that I have to do this each time it rains hard,” the Manila lawyer, 35, said.

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