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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Disaster-weary Philippines mops up after deadly floods
by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) Aug 22, 2013


More rain adds to misery in flooded Philippine capital
Manila (AFP) Aug 21, 2013 - Heavy rain pounded the Philippine capital and surrounding areas for a third day Wednesday, adding to the misery of nearly 300,000 exhausted people displaced from their flooded homes.

Fifteen people have been confirmed killed by the monsoon rains and floods that have battered the country's main island of Luzon.

The government's National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the victims mostly drowned, including an 84-year-old woman who perished in a suburb of Manila.

As of nightfall Wednesday about 15 percent of Metro Manila, a low-lying and sprawling city of 12 million people, was still flooded, down from 50 percent on Tuesday, said Mon Viloria of the city's civil defence office.

While the crisis had eased many people were still suffering, said Philippine Red Cross secretary general Gwendolyn Pang.

Speaking earlier Wednesday, she said almost 300,000 people were living in evacuation centres or seeking shelter with friends and relatives.

"The problem now is food, and a source of water for drinking. They also have to wash their clothes (while) some had their belongings washed away by the water," Pang told AFP.

One of the worst-affected areas was the coastal district of Cavite, about 18 kilometres (11 miles) from the heart of the capital, where residents were suffering waist-deep water streaming through countless homes.

"We are really pitiful here. People are still shocked. There is no electricity," Lino Ibadlit, a district councillor, told AFP.

He said the local government had brought some food and other relief goods but they were only suitable for one day.

"The people have no choice but to wade through the water to look for food, but stores are either closed or have run out of supplies... we need canned goods, noodles, biscuits," he said.

Ibadlit said health was also starting to become a concern, with children beginning to suffer from colds and skin rashes.

The floods paralysed the capital on Monday and Tuesday, with schools, government offices and the stock exchange closed. The city was even quieter on Wednesday, although it was a public holiday.

People living in important farming regions to the north of Manila were also enduring flooding.

In Pampanga province knee-high water submerged vast areas of rice fields and farming towns.

Marcela Cantellana, 53, said five families whose homes are beside the Porac river had been living inside her two-storey home since the floods struck before dawn on Monday.

"The water went up so quickly. They weren't even able to save their clothes because the water rose to the rooftops in minutes. All of their livestock, their goats, pigs and chickens, were lost," she said.

However the flooding in Pampanga was lower than Tuesday and the Porac river had returned to normal levels on Wednesday, allowing the displaced families at Cantellana's house to start cleaning out their homes.

The seasonal monsoon was worsened by Tropical Storm Trami, which had been hovering to the north of the country.

Trami was about 500 kilometres (300 miles) northeast of the Philippines on Wednesday and moving slowly away, according to the weather bureau, which said the rains were expected to ease late in the week.

The Southeast Asian archipelago endures about 20 major storms or typhoons annually, generally in the second half of the year and many of them deadly.

More than 460 people were killed in 2009 when Tropical Storm Ketsana left 80 percent of Manila submerged.

And in August last year, 51 people died when more than a month's worth of rain was dumped in and around Manila in 48 hours.

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," 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 percent 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 Thursday, while nearly 346,000 others are staying with friends and relatives, he added.

Many of the displaced were newly tallied in farming areas in the provinces north of Manila, where nearly 500 villages remained under water.

In the town of Calumpit, housewife Cora de Castro, 58, and seven children and grandchildren were crammed into a wet, noisy covered basketball court along with about 300 other flood victims.

"It is difficult here. We cannot sleep," she told AFP.

"At least there is (tap) water here. It comes from the faucets in the bathrooms so I don't know if it's clean," she added.

In Manila, trading resumed at the Philippine Stock Exchange and offices were getting back to work. But most schools have declared emergency holidays for the rest of the week as buildings are cleaned up or used as evacuation centres.

Since Sunday Manila and neighbouring provinces have experienced the most intense rains in four years.

Floodwater swept through low-lying communities, forcing thousands into crowded evacuation centres like gyms, where people were forced to sleep at close quarters on the floor with cardboard for bedding.

In Cavite province near Manila, the floods dislodged concrete tombs at one cemetery, depositing them on the side of a highway, an AFP photographer saw.

State weather forecaster Bernie de Leon said 671.6 millimetres (26.8 inches) of rain fell on Manila between Sunday and Wednesday -- more than the monthly average of 504.2 millimetres for August.

The seasonal monsoon had been worsened by Tropical Storm Trami, which went on to hit China on Thursday.

The Philippine islands endure about 20 major storms or typhoons annually, generally in the second half of the year and many of them deadly.

"This is the worst since (Ketsana)," de Leon told AFP, referring to a 2009 storm that killed more than 460 people and left 80 percent of Manila submerged.

"We expect the weather to gradually improve over the coming days," he added.

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