MANILA, Philippines — Rescuers pulled more bodies from swollen rivers Monday as residents started to dig out their homes from under carpets of mud after flooding left 140 people dead in the Philippine capital and surrounding towns.
Overwhelmed officials called for international help, warning they may not have sufficient resources to withstand another storm that forecasters said was brewing east of the island nation and could hit as early as Friday.
Authorities expected the death toll from Tropical Storm Ketsana, which scythed across the northern Philippines on Saturday, to rise as rescuers penetrate villages blocked off by floating cars and other debris. The storm dumped more than a month’s worth of rain in just 12 hours, fueling the worst flooding to hit the country in more than 40 years. At least 140 people died, and 32 are missing.
Troops, police and volunteers have already rescued more than 7,900 people, but unconfirmed reports of more deaths abound, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said.
He told a news conference that help from foreign governments will ensure that the Philippine government can continue its relief work.
“We are trying our level best to provide basic necessities, but the potential for a more serious situation is there,” Teodoro told a news conference. “We cannot wait for that to happen.”
The extent of devastation became clearer Monday as TV networks broadcast images of mud-covered communities, cars upended on city streets and reported huge numbers of villagers without drinking water, food and power.
Since the storm struck, the government has declared a “state of calamity” in metropolitan Manila and 25 storm-hit provinces, allowing officials to use emergency funds for relief and rescue.
The homes of nearly half a million people were inundated. Some 115,000 of them were brought to about 200 schools, churches and other evacuation shelters, officials said.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has said Ketsana and the flooding were “an extreme event” that “strained our response capabilities to the limit but ultimately did not break us.”
The United States has donated $100,000 and deployed a military helicopter and five rubber boats manned by about 20 American soldiers from the country’s south, where they have been providing counterterrorism training.