- Associated Press - Friday, August 10, 2012

MANILA, Philippines — Evacuees who sheltered at a school in a badly flooded suburb of the Philippine capital were told Friday to return to their homes. Luzviminda Limas worried where her family would sleep.

Her home is a 24-square-meter (258 square-foot) box that has a rough concrete floor and a tin roof, with no ceiling. The lower half of its walls is made of flimsy cinder blocks and the upper half of warped cardboard and tarpaulin.

The Marikina River, normally about 200 meters (yards) from her house, was swelled by torrential monsoon rains, and the water reached within centimeters (inches) under the roof of her house. It deposited thick mud half-knee deep as it receded early Thursday.

A 54-year-old widow, Limas said the floods brought back memories of the 2009 deluge when she was huddled under an umbrella with one of her daughters and her 4-month-old grandson on the roof of a nearby day-care center as typhoon floodwaters destroyed her home.

When the water rose early this week, Limas hustled her family to the same elementary school in Nangka village where they had found emergency shelter in 2009.

More than 7,000 evacuees sheltered at the Nangka Elementary School in Marikina City during the recent floods, which submerged more than half of the sprawling capital at the peak. But principal Marciana de Guzman said they were told to leave so the school could be prepared for the resumption of classes next week.

Limas works doing laundry and shares her home with her two unemployed daughters and their husbands — one a mini-bus driver and the other a laborer who is currently out of work. Each of her daughters has two children, one only 8 months old.

She worried where everyone would sleep on Friday night when they return home because everything was wet and muddy.

Her daughter, Venice, was collecting cardboard boxes to use as sleeping mats.

“I wish we could have a new home, one that has decent walls not made of cardboard,” she said. “We have nowhere to go. If we had money, we will leave this place.”

Her community is a resettlement site for hundreds of poor families in Marikina, the “shoe capital” of the Philippines, said city council member Judy Magtubo.

Magtubo said many of the shoemakers who lost their livelihood have not yet recovered from the devastation of the 2009 floods, which was then the worst flooding in the country in 40 years.

The torrential monsoon rains that lasted from Sunday through Wednesday forced than 360,000 in Manila and nearby provinces to flee their flooded homes and seek shelter in schools, churches and government buildings. At least 60 people died, many from drowning.

Civil defense chief Benito Ramos said some evacuees have returned home but many others remain in the shelters because their houses have been destroyed.

“They have no homes to return to, they have no food, they have no clothes except what they are wearing,” he said.

Residents using anything from shovels to pieces of plywood scraped the debris off the floors of their houses and the pavements and gathered them into mud-caked piles of garbage on the side of the street.

“It’s really an eyesore when we saw it from the helicopter,” said civil defense chief Ramos. “There will be no more rescue. It’s now ‘Operation Cleanup.’”

North of the city, rains still poured intermittently and a helicopter carrying President Benigno Aquino III had to land on an isolated portion of a highway early Friday when visibility became difficult, said his spokesman Ricky Carandang.

No one was hurt and the presidential party proceeded by car to visit flood victims in his home province of Tarlac, Carandang said.

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Associated Press writers Hrvoje Hranjski, Jim Gomez and Teresa Cerojano contributed to this report.