Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Relentless rains trigger deadly landslide, submerge half of Philippines capital

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MANILA, Philippines — Relentless rains submerged half of the sprawling Philippine capital, triggered a landslide that killed nine people and sent emergency crews scrambling Tuesday to rescue tens of thousands of residents who called media outlets pleading for help.

The deluge, the worst since 2009 when hundreds died in ramflash floods, was set off by the seasonal monsoon that overflowed major dams and rivers in Manila and surrounding provinces.

The capital and other parts of the country already were saturated from last week's Typhoon Saola, which battered Manila and the north for several days before blowing away Friday. That storm was responsible for 53 deaths.

"It's like a water world," said Benito Ramos, head of the government's disaster response agency. He said the rains flooded 50 percent of metropolitan Manila on Monday evening, and about 30 percent remained under waist- or neck-deep waters Tuesday.

He urged residents in areas prone to landslides and floods to stay in evacuation centers. Because the soil is saturated, even a little rain could be dangerous, he added.

Manila's weather bureau said a tropical storm off eastern China had intensified monsoon rains in the Philippines, which were forecast to last until Thursday.

In Manila's suburban Quezon City, a landslide hit a row of shanties perched below a hill, burying nine people, according to Ramos.

Army troops and police dug frantically to save those buried, including four children, as surviving relatives and neighbors wept. All the victims were recovered, some whose bodies were found near an entombed shanty's door as they apparently tried to flee.

Vehicles and even heavy trucks struggled to navigate water-clogged roads, where hundreds of thousands of commuters were stranded. Many cars were stuck in the muddy waters.

The government suspended work and classes Tuesday and today. Some shopping malls opened with limited grocery supplies that were quickly picked up by shoppers waiting in long lines.

CANCUN, Mexico — Hundreds of tourists evacuated beach resorts along Mexico's Caribbean coast as Hurricane Ernesto headed toward a Tuesday night landfall near Mexico's border with Belize, bringing the threat of powerful winds and torrential rains.

Ernesto strengthened from a tropical storm earlier in the day, and the U.S. National Hurricane Center said it had winds of 80 mph by late afternoon and was moving west-northwest at 15 mph. It was centered about 140 miles east of Chetumal, Mexico.

Authorities in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo were moving more than 1,300 tourists from resorts in Mahuahal and other spots to Chetumal, a bayside city that was expected to see less rain and wind than the coast. Two cruises ships scheduled to dock on the Riviera Maya put off their arrival.

In the city of Tulum, about 6,000 tourists were sheltering in hotels that authorities said were strong enough to qualify as storm shelters. Authorities also prepared two kindergartens as shelters that can hold up to 220 people.

Soldiers and police were moving 600 residents from the fishing village of Punta Allen in Quintana Roo, where authorities opened emergency shelters and began preparing for the evacuation of residents from other low-lying coastal settlements.

The heart of the storm was expected to hit south of the resort areas of Cancun and the Riviera Maya.

The storm that entered the Caribbean on Saturday was driving through the sea parallel to the Honduran coast, though officials there said the threat had passed without any damage or injuries.

Forecasters said Ernesto was expected to take about 24 hours to cross Yucatan and enter the southern Gulf of Mexico. Its predicted course would take it to Mexico's Gulf coast near Veracruz.

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