MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Torrential rains brought the Philippine capital to a standstill Monday, submerging some areas in waist-deep floodwaters and making streets impassable to vehicles while thousands of people across coastal and mountainous northern regions fled to emergency shelters.
The national disaster agency and local officials reported at least two dead and several missing. Schools, offices, the stock exchange, courts and embassies were closed as the weather bureau placed metropolitan Manila — a sprawling area of 12 million people — under red alert.
The flooding following a night of heavy rains brought by the monsoon, which was enhanced by Tropical Storm Trami. It hovered over the North Philippine Sea and drenched the main northern island of Luzon with up to 30 millimeters (just over an inch) of rain per hour.
TV footage showed residents trapped on rooftops as raging floodwaters swept through Binan town on Lake Laguna, near Manila.
Flooding has become more frequent in Manila because of deforestation of mountains, clogged waterways and canals where large squatter communities live and poor urban planning.
In the chilly northern mountain town of Sagada, army troops and police rescued 29 tourists, including 13 Japanese, who were stranded for several hours inside a cave after two days of heavy rains caused a stream at the entrance to swell, Office of Civil Defense official Andrew Alex Uy said. One Filipino tourist remained missing.
Several dams in Luzon were forced to open flood gates because of rising waters and thousands of residents downstream were told to move.
A landslide and floods shut down traffic on one of major highways leading out of Manila. In the outlying provinces of Cavite, Batangas and Ilocos Norte father north, local authorities said flash floods forced thousands to take refuge in schools and other sturdy buildings.
Forecasters said the storm was expected to strengthen into a typhoon with winds of up to 120 kilometers (75 miles) per hour as it slowly moves away from the Philippines, passing just south of Japan’s Okinawa by Wednesday.
The Philippine archipelago is among the most battered by typhoons and storms in the world. About 20 tropical cyclones hit the country every year. .