[PHOTO -Vehicles inch their way along flooded España Boulevard in Manila yesterday. VAL RODRIGUEZ]

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA, JULY 22, 2012 (PHILSTAR) By Jaime Laude - Two people were killed and six others remained missing as floods inundated parts of Manila and nearby provinces while tropical storm “Ferdie” barreled through Northern Luzon yesterday.

The Office of Civil Defense (OCD) said rescuers were on standby to help residents evacuate if necessary as creeks and open sewers in Metro Manila overflowed from overnight rains, swamping nearby slums and causing traffic jams.

The rains began to ease by midday after plunging some areas in almost meter-deep waters, but OCD chief and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) executive director Benito Ramos said he could not rule out further flooding as runoff from nearby mountains descends into Manila Bay.

“All that rain up there would eventually find their way here,” Ramos said, referring to the mountains to the east of Manila.

“We have CCTV cameras to monitor the (Manila) rivers’ water levels, and we have 44 evacuation centers ready and stocked with food and other items by our local government units,” he said.

Army reservists would be called up to help should evacuation become necessary, Ramos said, while stressing there was no need for large-scale evacuations at the moment.

Local officials declared a school holiday as intense rains that Ramos said averaged 30 millimeters per hour swamped parts of Metro Manila and nearby areas.

Ramos said a still unidentified man drowned at a swollen creek in Naguilian, La Union while rescuers retrieved the body of Jonathan Sagodaquiel who fell into a river late Friday in Lumban, Laguna.

Four fishermen went missing in stormy waters off Bolinao, Pangasinan while two children were missing after being swept away in other rivers, he added.

In San Jose, Rodriguez, Rizal, a village riprap at Montalban Heights collapsed due to continuous rainfall. Nobody was injured and no property was destroyed because of the incident, Ramos said.

Even as Ferdie was moving away from the country’s northwest coast, Ramos warned heavy rains would still continue.

“While tropical depression Ferdie has slightly accelerated this movement while traversing Balintang Channel, residents living in low-lying and mountainous areas under public storm warning signal 1 are alerted against possible flashfloods and landslides,” he said.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said three provinces remain under signal number 1 as Ferdie left the country.

As of 4 p.m. yesterday, PAGASA said the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur and Abra were under storm signal no. 1 where winds of 30 to 60 kilometers per hour were expected within the next 36 hours.

Ferdie was spotted to be at 240 kilometers west-northwest of Laoag City. It was reportedly moving with maximum sustained winds of 55 kph near the center, in a west-northwest direction at 15 kph.

[PHOTO -Students cross a fl ooded street in front of the Manila City Hall yesterday. EDD GUMBAN]

PAGASA forecaster Jun Galang said Ferdie was expected to be out of the country at around 9 p.m. yesterday and move toward Hong Kong.

“Even if tropical depression Ferdie would be out of PAR there would still be rains until Monday... since Ferdie enhanced the southwest monsoon,” Galang said.

“It would still be rainy, but the weather would improve and the rains would not be as bad compared to yesterday (Saturday),” he added.

State weather forecaster Gener Quitlong said the rainfall exceeded 40 millimeters in some areas of Metro Manila.

PAGASA placed 12 cities in Metro Manila under “red warning signal,” namely Parañaque, Taguig, Manila, Mandaluyong, Pasay, San Juan, Quezon City, Pasig, Marikina, Malabon, Navotas and Caloocan City due to the high amount of rainfall recorded in these areas.

“Red warning” is regarded as an emergency, meaning the rainfall observation must be 30 millimeters per hour or continuous rainfall for the past six hours exceeded 65 millimeters. Serious flooding is expected in these areas.

On the other hand, the Binga Dam in Bulacan released water as a precaution against a possible overflow, but other dams were still well below critical level, according to flood forecaster Jimmy Enriquez.

“Low-lying, flood-prone regions in (Manila and nearby provinces) are advised to take precaution. Usual high-risk areas to flood are advised to evacuate residents,” the NDRRMC said.

Malacañang, meanwhile, expressed hope that local governments would now be able to adequately respond to the needs of their constituents as heavy rains and flooding were reported in various parts of the country.

“We just want to, again, remind the people... it’s red warning in areas affected (by Ferdie),” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

Lacierda said local government units (LGUs) should take all necessary precautions and not just those that were used to flooding like Marikina City.

“The other LGUs hopefully would be able to respond appropriately,” he said.

Flooded streets

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said most of the streets in the metropolis that were flooded by heavy rains have already been cleared.

The MMDA said only the streets in Barangays Pio del Pilar, La Paz and San Antonio in Makati City remained impassable to light vehicles.

MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino said the streets in these barangays became flooded after the waterway Estero Tripa de Gallina overflowed.

The MMDA’s Flood Control and Information Center (FCIC) also reported Araneta Avenue in Quezon City, which was flooded to 48 centimeters after the Talayan Creek overflowed, was also cleared for traffic yesterday afternoon.

The FCIC also reported that the level of the Marikina River remained at 15 meters, near its breaching mark of 17 meters.

With the river water level reaching 15 meters, the Marikina City government has placed areas of the city near the riverbank under alert level 1 and has prepared residents for possible evacuation.

The FCIC said among the flooded streets under 48 centimeters were Singalong Street-Osmeña Extension in Manila, areas around the Manila City Hall, E. Rodriguez and Araneta Avenue in Quezon City, Quezon Avenue and Maria Clara Street in Manila, and Taft Avenue-Gil Puyat Avenue.

Also flooded were San Rafael, Boni Avenue, Nueve de Pebrero, San Francisco Street and the Maysilo Circle in Mandaluyong City.

In Quezon City, floods left the streets of Barangay Roxas, Barangay Socorro, Barangay Sta. Cruz, Barangay Apolonio Samson impassable to light vehicles. Also flooded were some portions of Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard in Manila.

The MMDA also reported gutter-deep flood at the Baclaran area in Parañaque, and North Avenue and Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City.

Traffic along EDSA also crawled after the P. Tuazon and Aurora tunnels got flooded up to 20 centimeters.

The heavy rains also caused massive traffic jams and flooding along España Boulevard, Taft Avenue and the Quiapo area in Manila, stalling thousands of passengers in the city’s main thoroughfares.

The stretch of Taft Avenue became impassable to light vehicles, stranding hundreds of commuters.

The Philippine Coast Guard, on the other hand, advised fishermen, particularly in the coastal towns of Northern Luzon, against sailing out even after PAGASA reported that the storm was already headed out of the country.

Despite reports that the weather disturbance was already leaving the country, Coast Guard spokesman Lieutenant Commander Armand Balilo said fishermen should not be complacent and venture out since there would still be rough seas.

“It would not be safe for the fishermen on the western seaboard in Luzon. They should first wait for the weather and sea condition to improve,” Balilo said. – With Evelyn Macairan, Aurea Calica, Mike Frialde, Rey Galupo

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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