MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines appealed for international aid to help tens of thousands marooned by flashfloods, and apologized for the delays in rescue efforts to avoid potential political fallout from the crisis.
Disaster officials said the death toll from Typhoon Ketsana that hit the main island of Luzon stood at 52 on Sunday and more than 20 others were missing feared dead.
“We’re doing our best to get to all those people still trapped by the flashflood,” Anthony Golez, spokesman for the National Disaster Coordinating Council, told reporters, adding soldiers in rubber boats would evacuate them to safety.
“We’re sorry for the delays. We’re encountering difficulty in reaching flooded areas.
Hundreds remained on rooftops, waving and shouting for food, water and warm clothes as floodwaters began to subside in and around Manila on Sunday.
Television images showed several houses and cars being swept by swollen rivers and clusters of people on the roofs of their homes. Army and civilian helicopters were seen dropping food and relief goods.
The weather bureau said Ketsana brought the heaviest rainfall in the country in 40 years. About 410 mm of rain fell in 24 hours on Saturday, twice the amount that drenched the United States during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The government has been criticized for its handling of the crisis and dozens of angry people called radio stations to appeal for help and blame state agencies for lack of preparation.
“This will have a big political impact on the government,” Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Instiute for Political and Electoral Reform, told Reuters, adding it could further sink the popularity of the administration.
“People are wondering how the government spent its budget for flood control projects. The government was caught unprepared by the heavy rain brought by the typhoon.”
Teodoro said massive rescue and relief efforts continued for the second day as thousands were still marooned in eastern Manila, which has been submerged in 3 meter-deep floodwaters.
“We’re appealing for more donations of food, water and warm clothes,” Teodoro said, adding the United States and U.N. agencies had responded with boats, food, water and relief goods.
Schools will be closed on Monday because most of them are being used as temporary shelters for more than 5,000 displaced families.
Airport operations returned to normal and power supply was slowly being restored.
Typhoon Ketsana, packing winds of up to 105 kph, hit the Philippines on Saturday and was now moving toward the South China Sea.
An average of about 20 typhoons strike the Southeast Asian nation every year.
Additional reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Jeremy Laurence