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Filipinos mop up after deadly floods

Focus shifting from emergency food aid to longer-term needs for the displaced

  • After the floods in southern Philippines
    Residents with muddy feet wait outside their houses that sit near the swollen Laguna lake in Laguna province, Image Credit: AP
  • After the floods in southern Philippines
    Residents wade in floodwaters brought by monsoon rain, intensified by tropical storm Trami, in Kawit town of CImage Credit: Reuters
Gulf News

Manila: Disaster-weary Philippine residents mopped up Thursday after four days of torrential rain that officials said had killed 17 people and forced more than half a million from flooded homes.

Residents swept out their muddy floors as floods receded, having covered half of Manila’s metropolitan area on Tuesday, rescue officials said.

“It’s all mud and garbage, and our television set and electric fan were destroyed,” a shoemaker’s wife Flordeliza Miranda told AFP as she returned to the family’s shanty beside the San Mateo river that was under water on Tuesday.

“We have not eaten anything since last night,” said the mother-of-two, who had slept in a tent atop a nearby bridge amid the deluge.

Philippine National Red Cross secretary-general Gwendolyn Pang said floods have receded in all but about 10 per cent of the metropolis of 12 million people.

“We continue to give support to victims of the monsoon,” she told AFP, adding the focus was shifting from emergency food aid to longer-term needs for the displaced.

The bad weather killed 17 people, said Reynaldo Balido, spokesman for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, updating an earlier toll of 16.

More than 217,000 people were crammed into government-run shelters on Thursday, while nearly 346,000 others are staying with friends and relatives, he added.

“The country is in disarray. Rehabilitation works in damaged areas, including relief assistance at evacuation centres will be fast tracked in all affected places in northern and southern Luzon and Metro Manila,” said Undersecretary Eduardo del Rosario, also head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

Several government agencies assisted each other to pump out water from Lagusnilad, Manila’s major underground road which looked like several Olympic sized swimming pools when it was flooded since Sunday, when Tropical Storm Trami, although stationed 500 kilometres away from northern Luzon’s Batanes, attracted southwest monsoon rains that dumped 671.6 millimetres (26.4 inches) of rain on Manila, for three days until Wednesday.

This amount of rainfall was replicated in all affected areas as far as northern and southern Luzon, the weather bureau said, adding it surpassed the usual 500 millimetres of rain per month during rainy season in the Philippines.

It was worse than Typhoon Ketsana in 2009, said the weather bureau, referring to the typhoon that dumped more than 450 millimetres of rain in 24 hours.

“We will go back to our homes at the East Riverside even if there is news that we won’t be allowed to stay there again,” said Nenita Toleng whose family stayed briefly at the Sto. Domingo Catholic Church, which opened its doors to poor people who were displaced by the relentless rains in suburban Quezon City.

At the East Riverside, the Toleng family washed their clothes and things that were caked with mud and dirt.

“We hope there’s no more rain as strong as this one,” wished Rachel, the Toleng family’s young daughter.

The Tolengs and their neighbours who all came from evacuation centres where they slept on chairs, on cardboard covered floors, were very happy when social workers came to their community with food, water, and blankets.

Their homes, illegally built at the edge of a concrete riverbank, have been scheduled for demolition, following a nationwide campaign against illegal settling in Metro Manila.

In another part of Metro Manila, Makati City, the financial district, brightened as banks, offices and commercial centres opened. The Philippine Stock Exchange resumed trading.

Public schools in Metro Manila remained closed until Friday because they have been transformed into evacuation centres.

“Everyone is energised to work harder after the storm is gone. We now see the enormous job ahead of us,” said Philippine National Red Cross secretary-general Gwendolyn Pang, adding that 10 per cent of Metro Manila is still flooded.

On Wednesday, 80 per cent of Metro Manila was under water. Those who were displaced were illegal settlers who have been staying for years under bridges and on river banks.

The government has a major plan, a long-term assistance for the poor. All illegal settlers would be relocated to places where they would no longer be vulnerable to effects of climate change, the Manila Metropolitan Development Authority said,

Majority of those who were displaced in northern and southern Luzon and in Metro Manila stayed with friends and relatives, The rest were at evacuation centres, said Undersecretary del Rosario, adding that flooded areas have also decreased in northern and southern Luzon.

Tropical Storm Trami left the Philippine territory on Thursday morning and proceeded to China’s Fujian province.

Twenty storms devastate the Philippines every year.

— With input from agencies