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Torrential rains close down Philippine capital

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August 18, 2013 09:55 PM EST | AP

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MANILA, Philippines — Torrential rains brought the Philippine capital to a standstill Monday, making streets impassable to vehicles while thousands of people across coastal and mountainous northern regions moved to emergency shelters.

Schools, offices, the stock exchange, courts and embassies were closed as the weather bureau placed metropolitan Manila under red alert. The national disaster agency and local officials reported at least two dead and several missing.

Many areas were submerged in waist-deep floodwaters following a night of heavy rains brought by the monsoon, which was enhanced by Tropical Storm Trami. It hovered over the North Philippine Sea and drenched the main northern island of Luzon with up to 30 millimeters (1.18 inches) of rain per hour.

Several dams in Luzon were forced to open flood gates because of rising waters and thousands of residents downstream were told to move.

A landslide and floods shut down traffic on one of major highways leading out of Manila. In the outlying provinces of Cavite, Batangas and Ilocos Norte father north, local authorities said flash floods forced thousands to take refuge in schools and other sturdy buildings.

Forecasters said the storm was expected to strengthen into a typhoon with winds of up to 120 kilometers (75 miles) per hour as it slowly moves away from the Philippines, passing just south of Japan's Okinawa by Wednesday.

The Philippine archipelago is among the most battered by typhoons and storms in the world. About 20 tropical cyclones hit the country every year.