MANILA - City residents waded through waist-deep flood waters and dodged flying debris yesterday as a powerful typhoon struck the Philippines, killing at least 16 people and sending waves as tall as palm trees crashing over seawalls.
Most deaths occurred in metropolitan Manila, which already was soaked by heavy monsoon rains ahead of Typhoon Nesat’s arrival with more downpours and wind gusts of up to 93 miles per hour. Downtown areas along Manila Bay suffered their worst flooding in decades.
Pounding rains obscured the view of anyone on the streets as soldiers and police scrambled to evacuate thousands of people in low-lying areas, where rivers and the sea spilled into shanties, hospitals, swanky hotels, and even the seaside US Embassy compound.
“It’s flooded everywhere. We don’t have a place to go for shelter. Even my motorcycle got filled with water,’’ said Ray Gonzales, one of thousands stranded by fast-rising flood waters.
The massive flooding came exactly 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 archipelago receives 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.
Typhoon Nesat hit shore before dawn yesterday in the eastern provinces and headed inland just north of Manila with up to an inch of rain per hour.