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The Teenager That Saved 30 Lives Before Being Swept Away Himself

In 2009, rampaging floods in the Philippines left nearly half a million people homeless, as tropical storm Ketsana swept across the islands bringing with it the worst rains in over 40 years.

During the resulting chaos, that took the lives of more than 140 people, a hero came to be in the shape of 18-year-old Muelmar Magallanes.

The teenager braved the swirling flood waters to save more than 30 people, but ended up sacrificing his life in his final rescue of a trapped baby girl and her mother.

“I am going to be forever grateful to Muelmar,” said Menchie Penalosa, the mother of the six-month-old girl whom he carried to safety. “He gave his life for my baby. I will never forget his sacrifice.”

A resident wades along a flooded street in suburban Manila. (Credit: AFP/Ted Aljibeted)

A resident wades along a flooded street in suburban Manila. (Credit: AFP/Ted Aljibeted)

Mr Magallanes was at home with his family when the storm began to rage. Used to heavy rains they had decided to hold fast.

However after the banks of a nearby river burst, the neighbourhood became swamped with rushing floodwaters.

Magallanes and his father quickly realised they had to evacuate the family.

Magallanes immediately took charge of the rescue operation. Tying a rope around his waist and attaching it one-by-one to his three younger siblings, he leapt into the waters and pulled each to higher ground. He then came back for his parents.

Even after the storm subsided, people remained trapped on their roof tops across Manila.

The sight of people stranded on their rooftops was a common one across Manila after the storm.

By this point the raising waters had driven panic stricken neighbours to their rooftops. Realising they were trapped, Magallanes, a strong swimmer, decided to rescue them too.

Time and again Muelmar swam through the fierce floodwaters to pull people to safety. But with each trip across the torrent he was becoming weaker.

Finally, after believing he had saved everyone he dragged himself onto the soggy ground beside his family to recover.

As he lay there cold and exhausted he heard a woman screaming. It was Penalosa, trapped in the waters with her baby. Clinging to a box with her child in her arms they were being swept away.

Without hesitation, Muelmar dived into the river and swam after them.

manila floods

Maria Luz Magallanes beside her son’s coffin. 18-year-old Muelmar Magallanes saved 30 lives in the 2009 Manila floods.

“I didn’t know that the current was so strong. In an instant, I was under water. We were going to die,” said Ms Penalosa.

“Then this man came from nowhere and grabbed us. He took us to where the other neighbours were, and then he was gone,” Ms Penalosa said.

Ms Penalosa and other witnesses said an exhausted Mr Magallanes was simply washed away after bringing them to safety.

The last ounce of energy he had was used to save the woman and her baby, he had nothing left for himself.

2009 manila floods

Chaotic scenes of people using power lines to escape the floodwaters

Neighbours found his body the following day along with 28 others who perished amid Manila’s epic flooding.

The official death toll after the storm stood at over 140. The figure would have been 30 more if it hadn’t been for incredible bravery of young Muelmar Magallanes.

Sources & Images:,, Akedima Fantasia, Daily Mail

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