MANILA - Typhoon Vamco slammed into the Philippines on Thursday, drenching many parts of the country in floods and leaving millions of people without power, just a little over a week after a super typhoon battered the country.
Locally named Ulysses, the new typhoon equivalent to Category 2 brought powerful, howling winds and non-stop heavy rains in the northern island of Luzon overnight, causing landslides and destroying thousands of homes. At least one person was reported dead in the Eastern region of Bicol and at least three were reported missing.
Vamco is the third typhoon to hit the country in less than a month and the twenty-first this year. The powerful supertyphoon Goni narrowly skipped Metro Manila but badly hit the Eastern Philippines which faces the Pacific Ocean just last week, forcing thousands into evacuation centers amid the coronavirus scare.
Vamco's strong winds and heavy rains flooded Metro Manila, forcing some 200,000 people to evacuate.
The Manila Electric Company said nearly 3.8 million of its subscribers have been left without power as of Thursday morning, although power was restored in many areas.
Cries for help flooded social media, with people posting pictures from the roofs of their submerged houses. Netizens helped coordinate rescue efforts on Twitter using the trending hashtag #RescuePH. Also trending was #NasaanAngPangulo (where is the president), used by Filipinos criticizing the government for not preparing for the disaster. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was attending the 37th Association of Southeast Asian Nation Summit which was conducted virtually this year. After his address, he flew on a helicopter to conduct an aerial inspection of the affected areas.
"It's not that I am at a distance from you," Duterte said in a televised address. "I want to go there and swim with you, but the problem is they don't want me to go. If I die, there's only one president."
Many also wondered why it seemed the government was ill-prepared for the disaster, when typhoons are a yearly occurrence.
Civil Defense assistant secretary Casiano Mollina defended the official response and said it was not the time to point fingers as they focus on rescue operations.
"We were actually not caught flat-footed in this event," he said in an online briefing.
Nathaniel Cruz, a resident meteorologist at a local TV station, said the heavy floods could be due to the saturation of soil brought by consecutive storms that hit the country.
A specialist at a Philippine weather forecasting agency also told VICE News the country is expecting two to three more tropical cyclones in December.
On the ground, people continue to grapple with the effects of the typhoon.
"We've never experienced this powerful wind and heavy rains," Lorenz Eduard Sarondo, a resident of the central province of Bulacan, told VICE News. He said their elevated home became a temporary shelter for their neighbors whose houses were already drenched.
In Marikina City, a Metro Manila suburb, a river swelled to levels reminiscent of Typhoon Ketsana in September 2009, submerging thousands of houses.
Vamco is heading towards Vietnam and is expected to leave the Philippines on Friday afternoon.