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Record floods threaten major city in Russian Far East
by Staff Writers
Moscow (AFP) Aug 23, 2013


600,000 still homeless after Philippine floods
Manila (AFP) Aug 23, 2013 - An estimated 600,000 people in the Philippines remained at temporary shelters or with relatives on Friday after days of heavy rain that killed 20, officials said.

A day after floods ebbed in the capital Manila, stagnant pools of water and high tides in coastal areas prolonged the misery in the central Luzon plains to the north, civil defence official Josefina Timoteo told AFP.

"These are mainly farmers and fisher folk who still cannot return to their homes or resume work. We are still supplying their needs," said Timoteo, the civil defence chief for the region.

"These are low-lying regions and this happens every year. It is a way of life for many of them and the local governments are well-organised to provide relief."

Seasonal monsoons dumped more than a month's rain in Manila and surrounding provinces between Sunday and Wednesday, the state weather service said, submerging about half the capital in floodwaters.

The rains were worsened by Tropical Storm Trami, which hit China on Thursday after hovering off the northern Philippines earlier in the week.

The government's National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said 200,000 people were still in government-run shelters Friday, with 400,000 others staying with friends or relatives and likewise receiving food rations and other emergency aid.

The council raised the death toll to 20 as receding floodwaters led to the discovery of two bodies in Cavite province, south of Manila.

Most of those who have yet to return home are from the central Luzon region, where 481 villages remain under floodwaters up to a metre (3.3 feet) deep, Timoteo said.

The weather is improving but the evacuation centres, mostly schoolbuildings, are expected to start emptying only next week, she added.

As a result, classes are still suspended in those areas, she said.

The health department has stocked up medicines at evacuation camps to prevent the spread of epidemics, she said, adding there had been no reports of widespread diseases.

The floods wreaked 97.3 billion pesos' ($2.2 billion) worth of damage to infrastructure and crops, the government says.

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

Russians in the Far East on Friday scrambled to contain record floods which have affected more than 50,000 people and threatened to paralyse one of the region's biggest cities.

Heavy rains pounding the Far East over the past weeks swelled local rivers, with floodwaters wreaking havoc in Khabarovsk, a city of nearly 600,000 that sits at the confluence of the Amur and Ussury rivers near a Chinese border.

The military were deployed to help hurriedly erect defences against the floodwaters which halted transport in some areas of the city and reached high-rise residential buildings.

Amid fresh concerns that the Russian government was ill-prepared to handle natural disasters, President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said he would soon personally inspect some of the affected areas.

The government will dispatch 10 ministers headed by powerful deputy prime minister Igor Shuvalov to the Far East to oversee relief efforts, government spokeswoman Natalia Timakova told AFP.

On Friday, the level of Amur river, which serves as a natural border with China where it is known as the Heilongjiang river, has risen to 718 centimetres, according to Russian state weather service Rosgidromet.

"The water is still rising, we have not seen the peak yet, and it could climb to 725 centimetres by the end of the day," said Yury Varakin, head of the situation centre at Rosgidromet.

Television footage showed locals walking home along planks to negotiate moody brown waters, junk and discarded footwear floating nearby.

"I went and bought rubber boots, when I came back they were no longer helpful," one man said in televised remarks.

The floods around Khabarovsk are unprecedented since regular monitoring began in 1895, officials said.

The highest water level stood at 642 centimetres in 1897.

There have been no reports of fatalities but officials say the flood waters have so far affected thinly-populated villages and expressed concern that the water might also batter other big cities.

"Right now the floods are reaching big cities which means there could be more serious consequences," the office of the Kremlin's Far Eastern envoy Viktor Ishayev said on Friday.

"The Khabarovsk region has sunk, several districts in Khabarovsk are swimming," Ishayev was quoted as saying on Thursday.

"Komsomolsk-on-Amur has another four to five days to prepare itself for a meeting with big water," he said, referring to a city of 260,000, also on the Amur river.

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