October 2, 2009 / 7:27 AM / 10 years ago

Rising lake threatens 100,000 near Philippine capital

MANILA (Reuters) - About 100,000 people living around a typhoon-swollen lake near the Philippine capital Manila should be relocated because the waters are unlikely to recede for two to three months, officials said on Friday.

The water level rose by 1.2 meters in Laguna de Bay when Typhoon Ketsana dumped record-high rainfall last Saturday and submerged the capital region Manila and two nearby provinces, said Edgar Manda, head of Laguna Lake Development Authority.

“We have to effect the removal of those in the danger zones,” Manda said, adding prolonged flooding in these areas posed potential health hazards.

“Now is the time to enforce forced relocation. It should be done as soon as possible.”

He said waters could rise further with another strong typhoon due to hit northeastern provinces on Saturday.

The Philippines declared a nationwide state of calamity on Friday as “super typhoon” Parma, with gusts of up to 230 kph (143 mph) at the center, bore down.

Tens of thousands of people around the 90,000-hectare lake are marooned in their houses due to flooding. Electricity, communications and potable water services in some of these areas are cut and many people are still waiting for relief goods.

Based on previous experiences in the 1910s and 1970s, Manda said it would take 2-3 months for water levels around the lake to recede to normal.

The water level in Laguna de Bay, one of the largest freshwater lakes in Southeast Asia, rose to a record high 14.62 meters in 1919 due to a typhoon. In 1978, typhoon-induced rains caused the level to rise to 13.58 meters.

“What happened last Saturday was totally unexpected when water rose to 13.81 meters at the height of Typhoon Ketsana,” said Jun Mystica, another lake authority official.

He said the clogged drainage system in the capital, heavy siltation of river systems, destruction of watershed areas and construction of houses on wetlands around the lake contributed to the flooding.

Reporting by Manny Mogato; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

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