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Manila jams costing lives as ambulances get stuck in traffic

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MANILA: Gridlock in Manila is costing lives as ambulances stuck in traffic face severe delays in the race against the clock to reach the city's hospitals, medics warn.

Special lanes for emergency vehicles are not enforced, the infrastructure is outdated, and local drivers are often unwilling or unable to make way - a situation experts say is causing patients to die en route.

"You feel empty. It is as if you were not given a chance to do everything in your capacity to help," ambulance driver and paramedic Joseph Laylo told AFP.

"If the traffic was not that bad it could have saved the patient," he added, recalling how he lost a patient when congestion tripled the time to hospital.

President Rodrigo Duterte pledged to unblock the capital's choking gridlock, but halfway through his term the city's main thoroughfare, EDSA, is like a carpark at rush hour.

The sheer number of cars on the roads is a major factor in whether ambulances can get their patients to hospital quickly, said Mr Vernon Sarne, a long-time automotive journalist.

"Even when you want to give way, but the motorway is full, what can we do? The ambulance cannot levitate," he said. - AFP