Philippines scrambles to rescue thousands after Typhoon Vamco

(Reuters) – Philippine coast guard and disaster agencies scrambled on Saturday to rescue thousands in a northern province flooded by Typhoon Vamco, the country’s deadliest cyclone this year.

Dozens of towns in Cagayan region north of the capital Manila remain submerged, affecting thousands of families, some of whom fled to rooftops to escape two-storey high floods, officials said.

The coast guard sent teams of rescue personnel, vehicles and rubber boats to Tuguegarao early on Saturday, and will bring in more help from nearby provinces, said coast guard commandant George Ursabia.

Accumulated effects of previous weather disturbances, as well as water from a dam and higher plains brought high flooding to Cagayan province, the disaster agency said. The nearby Magat Dam released water on Friday equivalent to two Olympic-size pools per second, government data showed.

Cagayan Valley is a region of 1.2 million people comprising five agricultural provinces. Nearly 14,000 people are staying in evacuation centres after the floods affected 343,000, the disaster agency said.

“We believe it would take more than a week before the floods subside” if there is no further rain, Tuguegarao City Mayor Jefferson Soriano told DZMM radio station. Access to the city, home to 163,000 people, was cut due to flooded roads, he said.

Residents took to social media, posting photos and addresses with pleas for rescue. The hashtag #CagayanNeedsHelp was the top trending topic on Twitter with 2.03 million tweets.

“We’re already on the third day atop our roof. We need relief goods and clothing because we saved nothing,” Ramilo Lagundi, a resident in Tuguegarao City, told DZBB radio station. Lagundi said he was staying with hundreds of other neighbours on rooftops.

Vamco, the 21st cyclone to hit the Philippines this year, has killed at least 42 people. It tore through the main island of Luzon late on Wednesday.