MANILA, Philippines – Thousands of Filipinos were marooned on rooftops Friday and officials released water from at least one large dam to keep it from collapsing as heavy rains from Tropical Depression Parma pummeled the archipelago.
Hundreds of people were reported killed by flooding and landslides, bringing the death toll from two storms in the last 10 days to more than 500, Philippines authorities said.
Officials said 60 percent of Pangasinan province, 120 miles north of Manila, was under water. Strong winds and rain hampered rescue efforts, grounding military helicopters and lifeboats. Officials received frantic text messages from residents begging to be rescued from the rooftops of malls and houses. One dam, weakened by pounding rains, also collapsed.
“Thirty of Pangasinan’s 48 towns are now under water,” said Pangasinan Gov. Amado T. Espino Jr. “I am appealing for 10-wheeler trucks, helicopters, rubber boats and amphibious vehicles.”
Attempting to prevent a second dam from collapsing, officials released a wall of water from the San Roque dam along the Agno River, which flows through 18 communities in the province.
Major highways north of Manila were submerged, isolating the northeastern section of Luzon province, as well.
The National Disaster Coordinating Council said that 1 million people had been displaced by Parma, with about 40,000 seeking refuge inside 162 evacuation centers.
“The water is so high, and it’s still rising,” said Deborah Castillo, a spokeswoman for the mayor of Santa Barbara, a town of 80,000 people north of Manila. “The road is gone. There are so many towns like ours under water that the regional government doesn’t have enough usable lifeboats to reach all the people who are begging to be saved.”
Parma, which was lingering off the Philippines’ northeastern coast, is the second major storm to hit in two weeks. The storm slammed the nation days after Typhoon Ketsana killed 300 people in the Manila metropolitan area and caused $50 million in damage.
Parma has baffled weather forecasters, making landfall three times in eight days. It is expected to move away from the Philippines in the coming days.
“This is the first typhoon in our history to behave in this strange manner,” said Nathaniel Cruz, a Weather Bureau spokesman in Manila, the capital.
Meanwhile, the high waters from Ketsana still have not subsided. Officials in Manila worry that rivers carrying raw sewage and bodies present a serious health risk.