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Heavy rain deepened flood misery in farming and mountainous regions of the northern Philippines on Tuesday, after the latest typhoon to hit the storm-ravaged nation killed at least 22 people.
Typhoon Lando (international name: Koppu) had weakened into a tropical storm and moved into the South China Sea by Tuesday morning, but its huge rain band ensured downpours across swathes of the sodden north where tens of thousands of people were displaced.
“The waters rose really fast, luckily we were rescued,” Lourdes Gatmaitan, 64, told AFP after sleeping at a basketball court being used as an evacuation center in Cabanatuan, a town about three hours’ drive north of Manila, the capital.
Lando, the second strongest storm to hit the Philippines this year, had impacted nearly 300,000 people across the main island of Luzon, the government’s disaster management agency said.
Twenty-two people were killed in floods, landslides and boat accidents, as well as by flying debris, according to an AFP tally based on confirmed figures from national and local authorities.
Floods as high as rooftops had covered some of the nation’s most important rice and corn farming regions in the flat plains north of Manila that are either side of a giant mountain range.
While the water had subsided on Tuesday in areas closer to the ranges, such as in Cabanatuan, the flooding had moved downstream to other farming towns.
More than 200 villages in the farming regions were flooded on Tuesday, with some areas more than one meter (three feet) under water, according to a report from the local civil defense office.
And heavy rain continued over the Cordillera mountain range, meaning more water was expected to flow down.
Weather forecasters also warned that Lando would cut back onto the far northern edge of Luzon on Wednesday morning after picking up more water in the South China Sea.
The Philippines endures about 20 major storms a year, many of them deadly.
The islands of the Southeast Asian archipelago are often the first major landmass that the storms hit after emerging over the Pacific Ocean.
Scientists have warned climate change will mean more frequent and intense storms.
The most powerful storm ever recorded on land, Super Typhoon Haiyan, hit the Philippines in 2013, leaving at least 7,350 people dead or missing.
While the latest storm has not been one of the deadliest, it will condemn many thousands of already financially struggling farmers to deeper poverty.
On the outskirts of Cabanatuan City, a regional trading centre, the receded floodwaters revealed vast swathes of rice crops destroyed, their green blades turned brown, flattened and withered.
Farmers and other residents, their legs and arms caked in mud, wrung mattresses and blankets by the roadside to squeeze out brown water.
“If we don’t clean this up fast, we’ll get sick,” tricycle driver Dennis Punzalan told AFP, his feet buried in thick, slimy mud, as he threw his five-year-old daughter’s teddy bears on to a pile of rubbish.
Text: Joel Guinto, Agence France-Presse (AFP)