IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Philippines cleans up, counts cost after powerful Typhoon Nesat

/ Source: news services

The Philippines on Wednesday began cleaning up and tallying the damage bill from powerful Typhoon Nesat, which killed at least 21 people and left behind flooded towns, overflowing dams and damage to rice crops across northern island of Luzon.

Emergency services in the capital Manila began restoring electricity after the powerful storm unleashed fierce wind and sent huge waves crashing over seawalls.

Most deaths occurred in and around metropolitan Manila, which already was soaked by heavy monsoon rains ahead of the arrival Tuesday of Nesat, which brought more downpours and wind gusts of up to 93 miles per hour.

The typhoon blew out of the Philippines on Wednesday packing winds of 75 mph and was expected to make landfall on China's Hainan Island on Thursday evening or early Friday.

The Philippine disaster agency said 35 people were still unaccounted for and that 108 had been rescued.

Power supply was gradually restored to the downtown area, which was strewn with trash and fallen bamboo pieces washed ashore by storm surges. The Metro Rail Transit also resumed operations.

Some areas were still flooded, including Manila Ocean Park facing Manila Bay and a major thoroughfare, Taft Avenue. The nearby U.S. Embassy, which was inundated Tuesday, remained closed.

Rice crops ruined
Benito Ramos, who heads the Office of Civil Defense, said floods were receding in many areas as the weather began to clear but low-lying regions, especially in the vast, rice-producing plains of the main northern island of Luzon, were still under water.

Mayor Santiago Austria of Jaen, a rice-farming town of 63,000 people in northern Nueva Ecija province, pleaded Wednesday for boats to rescue many villagers from their swamped communities and bring them to evacuation centers. Sporadic rains continued to pound his town, about 75 miles north of Manila.

"We only have four boats but there are so many people waiting to be rescued," Austria told The Associated Press by cellphone. "Many people here are still on top of their houses. We don't have enough boats to reach them and hand them food."

Floods also damaged large tracts of rice fields that were soon to be ready for harvesting, he said.

Ramos said army troops were on their way to help the Jaen villagers.

The Department of Agriculture said initial estimates put crop damage, mainly of rice, at about $16 million, while the disaster agency put infrastructure damage at around $1.7 million.

The National Food Authority said it had sufficient stocks to cover the losses, with 2.5 million tons of rice, equal to 75 days of demand, in its warehouses.

The central bank said crop damage and supply problems caused by the typhoon could increase prices temporarily.

The government had cut rice imports this year to about 860,000 tons from a record 2.45 million tons in 2010, and plans to make the country self-sufficient in its national staple in coming years.

Major damage to crops could have forced Manila to buy from international markets at a time when rice prices are rising.

Welcome mat for typhoons
Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim said huge waves as high as coconut trees breached a 65-foot-long seawall astride a popular promenade, allowing seawater from Manila Bay to rapidly engulf hotels, a hospital, business offices and several blocks of residential areas in waist-deep floodwaters.

"This is the first time that this kind of flooding happened here," said Lim, who began his career in Manila as a tough-talking police officer decades ago.

Strong winds toppled about 40 huge trees around the capital's tourist district and 3,500 people were moved from shantytowns into three school buildings, where they spent the night huddled amid continuing rains.

Emergency repair crews were clearing roads of trees, debris and stalled cars as schools and offices reopened Wednesday.

The massive flooding came a day after this sprawling, coastal city of 12 million held two-year commemorations for the nearly 500 people killed during a 2009 cyclone, which dumped a month's rainfall in just 12 hours. The geography of the archipelago makes it a welcome mat for about 20 storms and typhoons from the Pacific each year.

Some residents acted more quickly this time to evacuate homes as waters rose, including in the Manila suburb of Marikina, where 2,000 people escaped the swelling river by flocking to an elementary school, carrying pets, TV sets, bags of clothes and bottled water.

"We can replace things, but not people's lives," said janitor Banny Domanais, arriving at the school with his wife and three young daughters.