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Asia-pacific

Government 'overwhelmed' by deadly floods

Video by Rebecca BOWRING

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-09-28

The Philippine government says it is now "overwhelmed" by tropical storm flooding, which has killed more than one hundred people and displaced hundreds of thousands more.

The Philippine government said Monday it could not cope with massive flooding that has displaced nearly half a million people, amid fears the death toll could soar well past the official tally of 100.
   
Reaching people still stranded after Saturday's disaster in the national capital of Manila and surrounding areas, possible disease outbreaks, looting and providing survivors with aid were all big concerns, authorities said.
   
"We are concentrating on massive relief operations. (But) the system is overwhelmed, local government units are overwhelmed," the head of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, Anthony Golez, told reporters.
   
"We were used to helping one city, one or two provinces but now, they are following one after another. Our assets and people are spread too thinly."
   
Saturday's disaster saw tropical storm Ketsana drop the heaviest rain in more than 40 years on Manila and neighbouring areas of Luzon island.
   
The nine-hour deluge left some areas of Metro Manila, a sprawling city of 12 million people, under six metres (20 feet) of water, with poor drainage systems and other failed infrastructure exacerbating the problem.
   
Eighty percent of the city was submerged and some areas remained more than knee-deep in water on Monday. Local television reported that some people remained stranded on the second floors of their homes.
   
Adding to the chaos, telephone and power services in some parts of the city remained cut, while local government officials said survivors in makeshift evacuation camps were desperately short of food, water and clothes.
   
Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said the official death toll stood at 86, with another 32 people missing. He said more than 435,000 people had been displaced.
   
However, radio station DZBB quoted local officials as saying that 58 more bodies had been recovered from a flooded area in the Manila suburb of Marikina, and that they had not yet been included in the official tally.
   
Teodoro, who is heading the government's rescue operation, said the government was looking into that report.
   
The chief of a riverside village in Quezon city, part of Metro Manila, also told AFP that 29 bodies had been recovered and 108 people remained missing from his community.
   
Armando Endaya, captain of Bagong Silangan village, said those deaths had not been reported to national government officials.
   
Endaya was overseeing a makeshift evacuation camp set up at a gymnasium, where more than 3,000 people were sheltering on the concrete floor alongside 11 white coffins containing the bodies of their neighbours.
   
"We are overwhelmed. We are waiting for more aid to arrive. We are trying to mobilise our own relief operations here. But we need more help," Endaya told AFP from the gymnasium, which had a roof but no walls.
   
The home of Edgar Halog, 44, a jeepney driver, was destroyed in the floods and he was sheltering at the centre with his wife and seven children aged between three and 12.
   
"We do not have any money, we do not know what to do. We don't have any other relatives. We are waiting for food rations," Halog told AFP.
   
With sanitation services across the city in disarray, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said authorities were working to prevent disease outbreaks.
   
"Our surveillance is continuing in evacuation centres for possible outbreaks and epidemics," he said.
   
Our health teams are bringing in water and (products for) sanitation and hygiene at evacuation centres to make sure that disease does not spread."
   
Looting was also a concern.
   
Many people were refusing to leave their flooded homes because they wanted to protect their belongings from looters, Teodoro and other officials said.
   
Initial frantic rescue efforts saw military helicopters and rubber boats fan out across the city to pluck people off houses and car roofs.
   
The government said more than 7,900 people had been rescued.

Date created : 2009-09-27

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