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Philippine storm leaves 86 dead, 32 missing

MANY Filipinos tried to rebuild their lives today after saving little more than the clothes they wore in a tropical storm and the capital's worst flooding in more than four decades. At least 86 people were dead and 32 missing.

Army troops, police and civilian volunteers plucked dead bodies from muddy flood waters and rescued drenched survivors from rooftops after Tropical Storm Ketsana tore through the northern Philippines on Saturday.

Ketsana dumped more than a month's worth of rain in just 12 hours, swamping entire towns, setting off landslides and leaving neighborhoods in the capital with destroyed houses, overturned vehicles and roads covered in mud and debris.

The government declared a "state of calamity" in metropolitan Manila and 25 storm-hit provinces, allowing officials to use emergency funds for relief and rescue. At 86 people were killed and 32 others missing, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said today.

"People drowned in their own houses," as the storm raged, said Gov. Joselito Mendoza of Bulacan province, north of the capital.

Meteorologists say the Philippines' location in the northwestern Pacific puts it right in the pathway of the world's No. 1 typhoon generator. Doomed by geography and hobbled by poverty, the Philippines has long tried to minimize the damage caused by the 20 or so typhoons that hit the sprawling archipelago every year. Despite a combination of preparation and mitigation measures, high death tolls and destruction persist.

"We're back to zero," said Ronald Manlangit, a 30-year-old resident of the Manila suburb of Marikina. Floodwaters engulfed the ground floor of his home and drowned his TV set and other prized belongings. Still, he expressed relief that he managed to move his children to the second floor.

"Suddenly, all of our belongings were floating," Malangit said. "If the water rose farther, all of us in the neighborhood would have been killed."

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo toured devastated areas and prodded villagers to move on with their lives. She said the storm and the flooding were "an extreme event" that "strained our response capabilities to the limit but ultimately did not break us."

TV footage shot yesterday from a military helicopter showed drenched survivors marooned on top of half-submerged passenger buses and rooftops in suburban Manila. Some dangerously clung to high-voltage power lines while others plodded through waist-high waters.

In Marikina, a rescuer gingerly lifted the mud-covered body of a child from a boat. An Associated Press photographer saw rescuers carry away four other bodies, including that of a woman found in a church in a flooded neighborhood.

Authorities deployed rescue teams on boats to save survivors.

More than 430,000 people were affected by storm, including some 115,000 people who were brought to about 200 schools, churches and other evacuation shelters, officials said. Troops, police and volunteers have so far been able to rescue more than 7,900 people, Teodoro said.

The 16.7 inches (42.4 centimeters) of rain that swamped metropolitan Manila in just 12 hours on Saturday exceeded the 15.4-inch (39.2-centimeter) average for all of September, chief government weather forecaster Nathaniel Cruz said. He said the rainfall also broke the previous record of 13.2 inches (33.4 centimeters), which fell in a 24-hour period in June 1967.

Cruz said cloudy weather with some rains was expected to continue.

Ketsana, which packed winds of 53 miles per hour (85 kilometers) with gusts of up to 63 miles per hour (100 kilometers per hour), hit land early Saturday then roared across the main northern Luzon island toward the South China Sea.


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