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Monsoons cripple MM, South Luzon

A truck ferrying stranded commuters crosses a flooded street in Manila yesterday. AP  

MANILA, Philippines - Nonstop torrential rains spawned by the storm-enhanced southwest monsoon yesterday submerged several areas in Luzon, including Metro Manila, forcing authorities to suspend classes and work in government and many private offices.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported three fatalities in Apayao, Cavite and Rizal while 11 others were hurt at the height of the storm.

In Apayao, Pedrito Cawaya, 30, died in a vehicular accident in Barangay Lenneng in Cabugao, Apayao while Celedonio Gamban, 39, drowned in Tanza, Cavite.

The third fatality was five-year-old Austin Betasolo who died after a concrete fence collapsed in Barangay Tatalo, Binagonan, Rizal.

In Mountain Province, four people were reported missing when they were trapped in Sumaguing Cave, Sagada, the NDRRMC said.

Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) weather division chief Robert Sawi said Tropical Storm Maring will continue to enhance the southwest monsoon, which will bring moderate to heavy rains and thunderstorms over Luzon, particularly over the western section until tomorrow.

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Based on PAGASA’s 11 a.m. tropical cyclone bulletin,
Maring has maintained its strength and remained almost stationary for the past six hours.

As of 4 p.m. yesterday, Maring was spotted at 580 kilometers east of Itbayat, Batanes with maximum sustained winds of 75 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gustiness of 90 kph.

It was forecast to move east slowly at seven kph.

PAGASA downgraded the rainfall warning in the National Capital Region yesterday afternoon from red to yellow. Under a yellow rainfall warning, moderate to heavy rainfall is likely to continue over the area in the next three hours.

In August last year, the enhanced southwest monsoon also brought torrential rains and thunderstorms for about a week in Metro Manila, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), central Luzon, and other areas, leaving nearly 100 people dead.

State of calamity

Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla said a grade 3 pupil was killed when swept away by floodwaters after a dam collapsed in Barangay Tres Cruses in Tanza, Cavite.

Remulla said apart from the student, a certain Dome Gamban, 34, was also confirmed dead.

Gamban’s neighbor Johnny Gonzales, 15, and another unidentified victim, meanwhile, went missing, together with the brother of the grade 3 victim.

Remulla declared a state of calamity in the province while it struggles with heavy rains and rising floods, leaving all major roads going in and out of Cavite closed.

The towns of Imus, General Trias, Poblacion, Noveleta, Tanza and Naic were not passable as of yesterday.

Four cities and one municipality in Laguna were also placed under state of calamity after 40 of the province’s barangays went under water.

These are the cities of Biñan, Sta. Rosa, Cabuyao, Calamba and the municipality of San Pedro.

The towns of Narvacan and Sta. Maria in Ilocos Sur also declared a state of calamity in their areas due to massive flooding.

Dams release water

PAGASA said at least four dams in Luzon – Magat (Isabela), Binga (Cordillera), Ipo (Bulacan) and Ambuklao (Benguet) – have been releasing excess water since Sunday night due to incessant rains.

PAGASA hydrologist Edgar de la Cruz said the La Mesa Dam in Quezon City was placed on red alert as of yesterday noon.

The flood forecasting and warning section of PAGASA said water level at La Mesa Dam has reached 79.69 meters as of 6 a.m. yesterday.

Massive evacuation

Thousands of residents were evacuated yesterday in Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Batangas, Bataan, Bulacan, Pangasinan, Pampanga, La Union, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte after flashfloods hit their areas.

Santa Rosa, Laguna Mayor Arlene Arcillas said at least 15 out of 18 barangays in the city were submerged.

The Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, regional offices of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and other concerned agencies were directed yesterday to assist in relief and rescue operations in affected areas.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development, for its part, fielded quick response teams in the provinces of Laguna and Cavite as well as in the NCR to augment disaster response teams of local government units.

Hospitals alerted

The Department of Health (DOH) has alerted all hospitals to prepare for possible increase in leptospirosis cases because of the floods spawned by Typhoon Labuyo and Tropical Storm Maring.

DOH Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag said hospitals must ensure that they have enough medicine and other supplies needed for leptospirosis patients.

Tayag said it usually takes three to 10 days before symptoms of leptospirosis manifest, including high fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, yellowing of the skin and eyes, red eyes, diarrhea, abdominal pain and rashes.

Classes, work suspended

Due to intense rains late Sunday that eventually resulted in heavy flooding, Malacañang ordered early yesterday morning the suspension of classes in all levels as well as work in government offices, particularly in areas affected by Maring.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda relayed to Palace media the directive of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. to suspend classes in Metro Manila and other areas affected by the storm.

Among the provinces where PAGASA recommended the suspension of classes were in Pangasinan, Benguet, Bataan, Zambales, Tarlac, Pampanga, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, Batangas, Occidental Mindoro and Metro Manila.

Ochoa also ordered the suspension of work in government offices in Metro Manila except those involved in disaster risk reduction and management.

The inclement weather also forced the Senate to cancel work yesterday.

It would have been a busy day for the Senate as the hearings on the proposed P2.268-trillion national budget for 2014 were supposed to start yesterday with a briefing by the Development Budget Coordinating Committee (DBCC) on the economy.

Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile was also scheduled to hold a press conference regarding the Commission on Audit’s report on the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) for the period of 2007 to 2009 where his name was mentioned as among those with some supposed irregularities.

Meanwhile, a group of call centers agents yesterday called on Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies not to require them to work due to heavy rains.

BPO Industry Employees Network (BIEN) Philippines urged the BPO management to consider their employees’ safety and not terminate those who failed to report for work.

 “We remember the ‘habagat’ incident last year where some BPO companies required all their employees to report to work despite the devastation and massive flooding,” BIEN said in a statement.

BIEN said call center agents are now worried that BPO companies will be observing the same policy and force the workers to report for work.

The group said a single absence or even tardiness should not be used as a ground for termination.

“We understand the nature of call center where it needs to meet the demand of clients especially for phone banking, customer service and technical support accounts, but companies should be more considerate of their employees’ safety and welfare amidst massive flooding and heavy rains,” BIEN said.

On the other hand, at least 10 domestic flights of Cebu Pacific were canceled due to heavy rains yesterday.

Erratic movement

Maring is predicted to be 700 km east of Itbayat this morning and 680 km east northeast of Itbayat tomorrow morning.

By Thursday morning, it is expected to be 530 km northeast of Itbayat or outside the Philippine area of responsibility.

 – With Arnell Ozaeta, Rudy Santos, Rudy Fernandez, Raffy Viray, Eva Visperas, Raymund Catindig, Ding Cervantes, Jaime Laude, Rhodina Villanueva, Teddy Molina, Dino Balabo, Ric Sapnu, Delon Porcalla, Mayen Jaymalin,Marvin Sy, Sheila Crisostomo, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Mike Frialde, Non Alquitran, Evelyn Macairan, Rainier Allan Ronda, Ed Amoroso, Alexis Romero, AP

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