Philippine capital cleans up after storm kills 20

Emergency services and residents in the Philippine capital cleaned up and restored electricity Wednesday after a powerful typhoon unleashed floodwaters and fierce wind that killed at least 20 people and sent huge waves crashing over seawalls.

Most deaths occurred in and around metropolitan Manila, which already was soaked by heavy monsoon rains ahead of Tuesday's arrival of Typhoon Nesat, which brought more downpours and wind gusts of up to 93 miles (150 kilometers) per hour.

The typhoon blew out of the Philippines on Wednesday packing winds of 75 mph (120 kph) and was expected to make landfall on China's Hainan Island on Thursday evening or early Friday.

The Philippine disaster agency said 35 people were still unaccounted for and that 108 had been rescued.

Power supply was gradually restored to the downtown area, which was strewn with trash and fallen bamboo pieces washed ashore by storm surges. The Metro Rail Transit also resumed operations.

Some areas were still flooded, including Manila Ocean Park facing Manila Bay and a major thoroughfare, Taft Avenue. The nearby U.S. Embassy, which was inundated Tuesday, remained closed.

Benito Ramos, who heads the Office of Civil Defense, said floods were receding in many areas as the weather began to clear but low-lying regions, especially in the vast, rice-producing plains of the main northern island of Luzon, were still under water.

Mayor Santiago Austria of Jaen, a rice-farming town of 63,000 people in northern Nueva Ecija province, pleaded Wednesday for boats to rescue many villagers from their swamped communities and bring them to evacuation centers. Sporadic rains continued to pound his town, about 75 miles (120 kilometers) north of Manila.

"We only have four boats but there are so many people waiting to be rescued," Austria told The Associated Press by cellphone. "Many people here are still on top of their houses. We don't have enough boats to reach them and hand them food."

Floods also damaged large tracts of rice fields that were soon to be ready for harvesting, he said.

Ramos said army troops were on their way to help the Jaen villagers.

Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim said huge waves as high as coconut trees breached a 65-foot (20-meter) -long seawall astride a popular promenade, allowing seawater from Manila Bay to rapidly engulf hotels, a hospital, business offices and several blocks of residential areas in waist-deep floodwaters.

"This is the first time that this kind of flooding happened here," said Lim, who began his career in Manila as a tough-talking police officer decades ago.

Strong winds toppled about 40 huge trees around the capital's tourist district and 3,500 people were moved from shantytowns into three school buildings, where they spent the night huddled amid continuing rains.

Emergency repair crews were clearing roads of trees, debris and stalled cars as schools and offices reopened Wednesday.

The massive flooding came a day after this sprawling, coastal city of 12 million held two-year commemorations for the nearly 500 people killed during a 2009 cyclone, which dumped a month's rainfall in just 12 hours. The geography of the archipelago makes it a welcome mat for about 20 storms and typhoons from the Pacific each year.

Some residents acted more quickly this time to evacuate homes as waters rose, including in the Manila suburb of Marikina, where 2,000 people escaped the swelling river by flocking to an elementary school, carrying pets, TV sets, bags of clothes and bottled water.

"We can replace things, but not people's lives," said janitor Banny Domanais, arriving at the school with his wife and three young daughters.

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