Thousands of Filipinos shovelled muck and debris from flood-ravaged homes, shops and roads under a shining sun today after nearly two weeks of non-stop rain shut down the capital and forced hundreds of thousands to flee from the deluge.
At least 49 people died and over 2 million people were affected by Manila's worst flooding since 2009. More than half of the sprawling metropolis of 12 million was submerged at the peak, and schools and offices have been closed for days.
Under a hot sun as the rain finally stopped, residents began to fix dishevelled homes and stores in flood-hit communities that resembled a wasteland littered with mud-caked garbage. Some of the displaced in still-crowded evacuation centres have begun to trickle back to neighbourhoods, where floodwaters have subsided, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman said, but more than 314,000 people remained in hundreds of evacuation centres in Manila and outlying provinces.
"We were totally washed out," said Rudy Aquino, a flower shop owner along Araneta Avenue, where more than 10 feet of rampaging floodwaters swamped everything and carried all sorts of trash and even a wayward cargo truck.
Even though the weather has cleared, the government was busy with rescue and relief work in the worst-hit areas, especially along swollen rivers and coastal communities. In hard-hit Marikina city in the capital, rescuers on rubber boats floated down still-flooded streets to reach thousands of residents marooned in submerged houses along the Marikina River.
After the rains stopped, thousands of shoppers descended on grocery stores to stack up on food and other supplies.
The flooding has rattled the nerves of tens of thousands of people who had to be evacuated for the second time in as many days after returning home during a brief respite of dry weather yesterday morning.
"They are hard-headed. Now that the waters are high again, they got scared and they are calling us to be rescued," said police Senior Inspector Abner Perdosa, who led a team of rescuers in orange shirts helping residents across waist-deep muddy waters into government-run shelters.
The death toll jumped to 49 on Thursday after casualty reports from the provinces reached the Civil Defence Office. Most were drowning victims. At least six were missing.
Of the total killed, 26 were from metropolitan Manila, including nine killed in a landslide in suburban Quezon City. Classes were suspended this week as cities declared a state of calamity, and government offices were slowly reopening.