At least 55 killed by typhoons in Philippines

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The Independent Online

Rescuers scrambled today to deliver food and water to hundreds of villagers stuck on rooftops for days because of flooding in the northern Philippines, where back-to-back typhoons have left at least 55 people dead.

Typhoon Nalgae slammed ashore in north-eastern Isabela province yesterday, then barrelled across the main island of Luzon's mountainous north and agricultural plains, which were still sodden from fierce rain and winds unleashed by anither storm just days earlier.

Nalgae left at least three people dead yesterday. Typhoon Nesat killed 52 others and left 30 missing in the same region before blowing out Friday.

Nalgae was whirling over the South China Sea and heading toward southern China today 230 miles from the Philippines' north-east coast, with sustained winds of 75mph and gusts of 93mph, according to the Philippine government weather agency.

China's National Meteorological Center urged people in areas expected to be lashed by rainstorms in the next three days, including on southern most Hainan island and in eastern Taiwan, to stay indoors and cancel large assemblies, China's official Xinhua News Agency said.

Nalgae roared through parts of Luzon that had been saturated by Typhoon Nesat, which trapped thousands on rooftops and sent huge waves that breached a seawall in Manila Bay. Nesat then pummelled southern China and was downgraded to a tropical storm just before churning into northern Vietnam on Friday, where 20,000 people were evacuated.

Seven towns north of Manila were still flooded today, including Calumpit in rice-growing Bulacan province, where hundreds of residents remained trapped on rooftops in four villages for the fourth day, many desperately waving for help. Rescuers aboard rubber boats could not reach them because of narrow alleys. Two air force helicopters were ordered deployed to drop water and food packs to the marooned villagers, officials said.

Calumpit Mayor James de Jesus pleaded for more help from the national government and the air force.

"The ones waving for help are the ones who need to be rescued first because they have elderly people and children with them," de Jesus told ABS-CBN TV network.

"We can't rescue everybody because there are so many of them. It's impossible."

Benito Ramos, who heads the Office of Civil Defence, said that floodwater was receding in many areas. But she cautioned that freshly dumped rains by Nalgae may flow down from the mountainous north to the central Luzon provinces of Bulacan and Pampanga, which act like a catch basin, especially during high tide in nearby Manila Bay. Some officials said water released from nearby dams had exacerbated the floods.

Ramos criticised those villagers who refused to leave their flooded homes despite orders to evacuate.

During a nationally televised meeting with disaster response agencies, President Benigno Aquino III ordered authorities to study how villagers and fishermen can be forced to follow storm warnings to prevent casualties in the future.