Philippines appeals for aid after devastating floods
Authorities in the Philippines called for increased humanitarian action on Thursday to help nearly two million people affected by deadly floods in and around Manila, as emergency crews struggled to keep up with the scale of the disaster.
AFP - Philippine authorities appealed Thursday for volunteers to help deliver food, water and other relief goods to two million people affected by deadly floods in and around the Philippine capital.
After more than a month's worth of rain was dumped on Manila in 48 hours, entire districts remained submerged although overflowing rivers have started to recede and neck-high waters seen earlier were typically down to knee deep.
Civil defence chief Benito Ramos said the top priority now was to help the 1.95 million people affected by the floods, including 300,000 who were sheltering in evacuation centres.
He told AFP that national and local governments had pre-positioned food, medicine and other relief items before the flood, and these goods were being distributed across the disaster zones.
However other relief chiefs said they were overwhelmed by the scale of the crisis, and did not have enough volunteers to distribute the emergency items.
"The situation is very dynamic, we need more people to help out in this massive relief effort," said Sheila Alinsangan, an executive assistant to Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman.
Ramos also warned the floods could worsen again, with meteorologists forecasting more rain may fall this week.
"It will take days a few more days to recover, assuming the rain stops now. But if more rain is dumped, then no one can tell," he said.
In the riverside district of Marikina, where massive squatter communities were inundated, some residents returned to their homes on Wednesday night only for another deluge to hit a few hours later and cause another flood spike.
"Last night many came back, but when the alarm rang at 3:00 am they had to evacuate again," said Colonel Perfecto Pinaredondo, chief military aide at the civil defence office.
One of those forced to evacuate once more, housewife Alona Geronimo, told AFP she and her neighbours were exhausted and feeling hopeless.
"We were cleaning our house yesterday when the water rose again. No one has caught a wink of sleep here. If we fall asleep, we might die," Geronimo said as she huddled with 13 other people under a grey tarpaulin.
Geronimo said she had not been able to save anything in the floods.
"We have just the clothes on our backs. It was just like Ondoy," she said, referring to a tropical storm in 2009 known as Ketsana in English that submerged 80 percent of Manila and killed 464 people.
Twenty people have died from this week's rains in Manila and nearby provinces, according to authorities.
The deluge came after nearly two weeks of monsoon rains, compounded by a typhoon and tropical storm, that have left 73 people dead across the Philippines.
The Southeast Asian archipelago endures about 20 major storms or typhoons each rainy season, many of which are deadly.
But this week's rains were the worst to hit Manila since Ketsana.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and other politicians have warned that the Philippines must prepare for more intense rains caused by climate change.
But they have also emphasised that the extent of the current crisis and the fatalities are man-made, with people being allowed to live in danger-zones and watershed areas being destroyed.
Millions of slum dwellers live along rivers such as in Marikina, the swampy surrounds of a huge lake, canals and other areas susceptible to flooding.