MANILA, Philippines, (AP) – Rescuers pulled more bodies from swollen rivers and debris-strewn streets Tuesday to bring the death toll from massive flooding in the northern Philippines to 240, while two new storms brewing in the Pacific threatened to complicate relief efforts.
The homes of nearly 1.9 million people in the capital and surrounding areas were inundated by flooding unleashed when Tropical Storm Ketsana tore through the region over the weekend, the National Disaster Coordinating Council said Tuesday. Nearly 380,000 people have sought shelter in schools, churches and other evacuation centers.
Overwhelmed officials have called for international aid, warning they may not have sufficient resources to withstand two new storms forecasters have spotted east of the island nation in the Pacific Ocean. One could hit the northern Philippines later this week and the other early next week, although meteorologists say that could change.
Ketsana, which scythed across the northern Philippines on Saturday, dumped more than a month’s worth of rain in just 12 hours, fueling the worst flooding to hit the country in more than 40 years.
Troops, police and volunteers have already rescued more than 12,359 people, but unconfirmed reports of more deaths abound, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said.
He told a news conference that help from foreign governments will ensure that the Philippine government can continue its relief work.
“We are trying our level best to provide basic necessities, but the potential for a more serious situation is there,” Teodoro said. “We cannot wait for that to happen.”
Authorities announced Tuesday that a dam in northern Bulacan province had to release water for the second time in days in order to prevent a spill and urged villagers downstream to expect rising water levels.
Even the country’s communist guerrillas said they would hold off on assaults and help villagers recover from the storm.
The extent of devastation became clearer Monday as TV networks broadcast images of mud-covered communities, cars upended on city streets and reported huge numbers of villagers without drinking water, food and power.
In Manila’s suburban Marikina city, a sofa hung from electric wires.
Since the storm struck, the government has declared a “state of calamity” in metropolitan Manila and 25 storm-hit provinces, allowing officials to use emergency funds for relief and rescue.
Resident Jeff Aquino said floodwaters rose to his home’s third floor at the height of the storm.
Aquino, his wife, three young children and two nephews spent that night on their roof without food and water, mixing infant formula for his 2-year-old twins with the falling rain.
Rescuers pulled a mud-splattered body of a woman from the swollen Marikina river Monday. About eight hours later, police found three more bodies from the brownish waters.
The United States has donated $100,000 and deployed a military helicopter and five rubber boats manned by about 20 American soldiers from the country’s south, where they have been providing counterterrorism training. The United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Food Program have also provided food and other aid.