Philippines picks up pieces after storm leaves five dead

Philippines picks up pieces after storm leaves five dead
A priest blesses the body of a victim who drowned in floodwaters a day after tropical storm Fung-Wong inundated the Philippine capital Manila

MANILA - Thousands of people displaced by floods triggered by tropical storm Fung-Wong returned to their mud-caked homes in the Philippine capital Saturday, as the death toll from the disaster rose to five, officials said.

Heavy rains paralysed the sprawling metropolis of more than 12 million people and nearby regions on Friday, with roof-high floods chasing 83,000 people from their homes, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

"We have no choice but to come back. We can't afford to rent an apartment," butcher's wife Lovi Barbosa, 35, told AFP as she attempted to remove dirt from the floor of her home near a still swollen creek.

She said she and her five children, aged between two and 10, spent a sleepless night sat on the cold floor outside a tyre repair shop because the local school was already full of similarly displaced neighbours.

Three weeks' worth of rain swamped the region on Friday, state meteorologists said, as the eye of the relatively weak storm brushed past the northern tip of the main island of Luzon, more than 400 kilometres (250 miles) away.

The state weather service said Fung-Wong was forecast to hit Taiwan on Sunday.

Many of the areas hardest hit by floods, such as Barbosa's neighbourhood, are shantytowns illegally occupying the banks of rivers and other waterways.

"Generally, the floods have already subsided. People are starting to return to their homes," Alexander Pama, executive director of the disaster council, said Saturday.

The bad weather left five people dead and one missing, he told a news conference.

The storm itself caused power outages across northern Luzon, while rough seas left a small ferry off the central port of Cebu badly damaged on Friday, Pama added.

Navy rescuers along with nearby commercial ships retrieved 31 people from the stricken vessel, Philippine Navy spokeswoman Commander Marineth Domingo told AFP.

An average of 20 typhoons or major storms hit the Philippines each year, killing hundreds and bringing misery to millions.

Super Typhoon Haiyan, bringing the strongest winds ever recorded on land, left 7,300 people dead or missing across the central Philippines in November last year.

In September 2009, Tropical Storm Ketsana dumped a month's worth of rain across Manila in just six hours, unleashing the worst flooding in the capital in four decades and killing more than 460 people.

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