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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs    7 August  2012

Torrential rains paralyse Philippine capital, 9 provinces


After two weeks of heavy rains in large parts of the Philippines, including Metro Manila, more rains are expected in the next few days or even until next week.
The ditty “rain, rain go away come again another day” may not work as a shallow low pressure area (LPA) off northern Luzon may enhance the southwest monsoon and bring more rain.
Heavy rain again pounded Metro Manila late Sunday. The weather bureau said the volume of rainfall in the metropolis from 11:00pm Sunday to 2:00am yesterday, was relatively high at 31 cubic metres.
The amount of rainfall in the metropolis and other parts of Luzon increased water levels in several dams and rivers, causing flooding and the evacuation of thousands of residents in low-lying areas in Quezon City, Marikina City, and Rizal and Iloilo provinces.
In Iloilo, one person drowned due to heavy rains since Sunday that forced the suspension of classes in seven towns yesterday.
At least four domestic flights were canceled yesterday morning due to bad weather, the Manila International Airport Authority said.
At 9:00pm yesterday, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) upgraded rainfall alert from green to red over Metro Manila, as the “habagat” (southwest monsoon) continued to bring heavy rainfall in the metropolis.
The state weather bureau warned of “flooding in low-lying areas and those located near the river channels.”
“As of 10:00pm, heavy to intense rainfall was observed over Antipolo. It is expected to continue for the next hour,” said Pagasa. “Serious flooding is expected.”
Pagasa weather forecaster Jori Loiz said the effect of the monsoon would continue until Wednesday, but an LPA, spotted 770 kilometres east of northern Luzon as of 4:00pm yesterday, might move closer to the Philippine Area of Responsibility and enhance the habagat.
“For now the southwest monsoon is being enhanced by the pull of Tropical Storm "Haikui". But should the LPA develop more fully, it might enhance the southwest monsoon and bring more rains,” Loiz said.
The monsoon is moving northeast toward Haikui, which is moving westward toward southern Japan.
Rising water at the Marikina River and flooding spawned by La Mesa Dam breaching its spilling level yesterday prompted the evacuation of close to 800 families in Quezon City.
Heavy rains on Sunday forced officials to hoist Alert Level No. 3 over areas near the Marikina River.
By 2:00am yesterday, the river’s water level had reached 17 metres prompting officials to give residents the option of voluntary evacuation. A water level of 18m would call for forced evacuation.
Dennis Carlos of the Marikina Rescue 161 said 1,232 people from Barangays Malanday and Tumana opted to evacuate as soon as the second alarm was declared at around 1:00am.
A second alarm meant that water at the Marikina River was at least 16m above sea level. By 8:35am, water at the river went down to 15.9m but the number of evacuees increased.
Action officer Elmo San Diego of the Quezon City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council said that by 2:00pm yesterday, 379 families, or 1,889 persons, had evacuated from Barangay Bagong Silangan, which is near the San Mateo River, a tributary of the Marikina River.
Reports of La Mesa Dam reaching its spilling level likewise drove more than 400 families to flee from their homes near the Tullahan River.
The level at which La Mesa starts to overflow is above 80.15m. La Mesa does not have to open its gates to ease water levels since it is a spill dam that is much like a giant infinity pool.
In Rizal province, more than 1,500 families left their homes yesterday due to flooding, according to the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (DRRMC) in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon (Calabarzon).
The continuous rain flooded the towns of San Mateo where 111 families were evacuated and Cainta where 10 families left their homes as of 10:00am.
In Rodriguez town, 1,466 families from four villages were evacuated to public schools and covered courts at around 5:00am yesterday.
DRRMC Regional Director Vicente Tomazar said forced evacuation was implemented after the water level in the Marikina River rose to more than 20m between 1:00am to 4:00am. Rodriguez Mayor Cecilio Hernandez ordered the suspension of classes in all levels.
At least 35 families, or 182 persons, were also evacuated in New Lucena town in Iloilo, according to the Provincial Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC).
Classes up to the elementary school level were suspended in the towns of Oton, Zarraga, Leganes, San Miguel, Banate and Anilao due to flooding.
Jerry Bionat of the PDRRMC identified the fatality as Arlie Castillon, 35, who drowned in Oton town on Sunday afternoon.
The heavy rains also forced the temporary closure of Iloilo City’s dump in Barangay Calajunan in Mandurriao District.
As heavy rains continue to pound Luzon, four dams have kept their gates open to release water in an attempt to stabilise levels and avert possible damage to the facilities.
But the Pagasa hydrometeorology division (HMD) alerted residents in San Carlos City and at least 17 municipalities in Pangasinan province that they may be flooded as a result of water released from San Roque Dam.
As of 2:00pm yesterday, the Pagasa HMD reported that Ipo Dam in Bulacan had kept one gate open after the water level reached 100.42m, short of its 100.80-m capacity.
Ambuklao Dam in Benguet kept two gates open by 1.5m after its water level reached 751.46m, close to its overflow level of 752m.
Three gates of Binga Dam in Ifugao, Benguet province, remained open  after water levels reached 574.40m. The normal water level at the dam is 575m.
San Roque Dam in Pangasinan province, which catches most of the water from Ambuklao and Binga Dams, kept two gates open by 1.5m after the water level breached its normal holding capacity of 280m and by noon yesterday was measured at 283.55m.
Virgilio Garcia, in-charge of the flood forecasting and warming system for dam operations of National Power Corp. (Napocor), said San Roque Dam would continue spilling water until its elevation dropped to 280m. The dam’s maximum water elevation is 290m.
But Gov. Amado Espino Jr., fearing a repeat of the 2009 massive flooding in the province, urged Napocor to keep the dam’s water level below 280m to provide space for rainwater that may be dumped by incoming typhoons.
The dam was blamed for flooding in 2009 that submerged 38 towns and cities and ravaged some 4-billion pesos (US$95 million) worth of crops, fish, roads, bridges and dikes after Napocor’s dam operators opened all  the dam’s spillway gates when it was about to reach its full capacity.
Spillage from the three dams is expected to further bloat the Agno River, where the water level had been raised by its tributaries—the Ingalera, Tagamusing and Sinocalan Rivers.
The swelling rivers caused flooding in low-lying areas of the municipalities of Sta. Barbara, Calasiao, Binmaley, Binalonan, Malasiqui as well as Dagupan and Urdaneta cities in Pangasinan.
In Bulacan province, Felicisima Mungcal, provincial disaster chief, said that as of yesterday, the floodwaters in Calumpit town was about a foot high.
Obando town was under 2.5 feet of floodwater  aggravated by the high tide, Mungcal said.

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