Philippine death toll rises as new storms brew
At least 280 missing or dead in flood waters; typhoon slams into Vietnam
The Associated Press, Sept . 29, 2009
MANILA, Philippines - Rescuers pulled more bodies from swollen rivers and debris-strewn streets Tuesday, pushing the toll from flooding in the northern Philippines to more than 284 dead or missing, while two new storms brewing in the Pacific threatened to complicate relief efforts.
Meanwhile, Typhoon Ketsana roared into Vietnam on Tuesday, killing at least 23 people as it brought flooding and winds of up to 90 mph, officials said. Some 170,000 were evacuated from its path.
After gathering strength over the South China Sea, the typhoon made landfall in midafternoon, about 37 miles south of Danang, according to the National Weather Center.
"The rivers are rising and many homes are flooded, and several mountainous districts have been isolated by mudslides," said Nguyen Minh Tuan, a provincial Vietnamese disaster official.
Extra police in Philippines
In the Philippines, authorities ordered extra police to be deployed to prevent looting in communities abandoned by fleeing residents, as frustration rose among those who have lost their homes or belongings.
Queues of bedraggled victims grew long at hundreds of aid distribution centers as floodwaters subsided further and more people went in search of food, clean water, dry clothes and shelter.
Ketsana, which scythed across the northern Philippines on Saturday, dumped more than a month's worth of rain in just 12 hours, causing the country's worst flooding in 40 years.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's administration — sensitive to criticism it did not give sufficient warning of the deluge or was too slow to respond — conceded it was overwhelmed but said it was doing all it could to help.
The homes of nearly 1.9 million people in the capital and surrounding areas were inundated by flooding unleashed by Ketsana at the weekend, the National Disaster Coordinating Council said. Nearly 380,000 people have sought shelter in schools, churches and other evacuation centers.
The council said 246 were confirmed dead late Tuesday, with 38 missing.
Officials appealed for international aid, warning they may not have enough resources to withstand two new storms forecasters have spotted east of the island nation in the Pacific Ocean. One could hit the northern Philippines later this week and the other early next week, although meteorologists say that could change.
In the Philippines, authorities rescued more than 12,000 people, but unconfirmed reports of more deaths abound, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said.
Water that reached shoulder-depth in parts of the capital's streets on Saturday had subsided in many areas by Tuesday. People trudged through ankle-deep sludge to reach shelters where volunteers handed out bottles of water and other items. Elsewhere, people used shovels and brooms to begin mopping-up.
Many people complained the aid was too coming too slowly, and was not enough.
Arroyo said those who suffered had a right to complain but appealed to them to understand that the scale of the disaster was huge.
"We're responding to the extent we can to this once-in-a-lifetime typhoon emergency," she said in a statement issued Tuesday.
Arroyo opened part of the presidential palace as a relief center, where hundreds of people queued Tuesday for packets of noodles and other food donated by companies and individuals. At another center, Arroyo's executive chef cooked gourmet food for victims.
Arroyo and her Cabinet said they would donate two months' salary to the relief effort.
But conditions in many hard-hit areas remained squalid.
In the Bagong Silangan area in the capital, about 150 people sheltered on a covered basketball court that had been turned into a makeshift evacuation center for storm victims. People lay on pieces of cardboard amid piles of garbage and swarming flies, their belongings crammed into bags nearby.
Seventeen white wooden coffins, some of them child-sized, lined one part of the court. A woman wept quietly beside one coffin.
The storm left entire communities covered in mud, cars upended on city streets and power lines cut.
The government declared a "state of calamity" in metropolitan Manila and 25 storm-hit provinces, allowing officials to use emergency funds for relief and rescue. Arroyo would issue an executive order within the week declaring a national holiday as "clean up day," the palace said.
The United States has donated $100,000 and deployed a military helicopter and five rubber boats manned by about 20 American soldiers from the country's south, where they have been providing counterterrorism training. The United Nations Children's Fund and the World Food Program have also provided food and other aid.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Toll Hits 140 in Philippine Flooding
The New York Times, Sept. 29, 2009
MANILA — The death toll from a storm that ravaged the Philippines over the weekend reached at least 140 on Monday, with many more deaths expected and thousands of Filipinos still trapped in their homes by floodwaters.
The disaster was the worst the capital had experienced in nearly half a century. The storm poured a month’s worth of rain onto Manila in just 12 hours, the government’s weather bureau said. The National Disaster Coordinating Council raised the death toll from 100 on Monday afternoon, but officials from the provinces of Batangas and Rizal said the number of dead was at least scores higher. In Rizal Province alone, officials said, 82 residents had died.
The Philippine government declared a “state of national calamity” in 27 provinces outside the capital. Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, who also heads the disaster agency, said in a briefing on Monday that the government would now concentrate on relief work, indicating that a major part of the rescue effort was now over.
The sun shone Monday morning, and many Filipinos were happy that their lives were slowly inching back to normal as the floodwaters caused by Tropical Storm Ketsana began to recede in some areas.
But in Pasig City, one of the hardest-hit Manila suburbs where the heavily silted and polluted Pasig River flows, the floodwater in many communities hardly receded.
“The water is not moving,” a tearful Nene Monfort, 71, told ABS-CBN television. She said she and her family were trapped on the second floor of their apartment and could not come down because of the water.
Mr. Teodoro said the storm had destroyed the homes of more than 435,000 residents in the capital and in several provinces in the north.
“Right now we will concentrate really on providing food and other necessities,” he added. More than 100,000 people displaced by the storm are now housed in roughly 200 evacuation centers.
The United States Defense Department’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center reported Monday that the storm was moving westward across the South China Sea and would probably “intensify further to typhoon strength before it makes landfall” near the city of Hue, in central Vietnam.
The United States Embassy in Manila pledged at least $50,000 in disaster aid to the Philippines. It also sent about 20 Navy personnel members on two rubber boats and a helicopter to Cainta City, one of the worst-hit municipalities, to help distribute relief goods and rescue residents.
“The damage this storm has caused is heartbreaking,” Rebecca Thompson, an embassy spokesman, said in a statement Sunday.
Storm Leaves Dozens Dead in Philippines
The New York Times, Sept. 28, 2009
MANILA — At least 83 people were killed and dozens of others were missing after a tropical storm swept through the northern Philippines over the weekend, with Manila experiencing its worst flooding in nearly half a century, officials said Sunday.
As of Sunday afternoon, countless citizens in the capital remained on the roofs of their houses, where they had spent the night drenched and unable to come down because of the floodwaters that had accumulated since the rain began falling Friday evening.
Thousands of families in the capital and in nearby towns and provinces moved out of their homes as early as Saturday afternoon. Many people died in a landslide in Rizal, a province adjacent to Metro Manila that was among the hardest hit. In Marikina City, a Manila suburb, several of those who did not evacuate their homes in a subdivision by the Marikina River were found dead on Sunday.
Tropical Storm Ketsana, packing winds of 85 kilometers per hour, or 53 miles per hour, with gusts of up to 100 kilometers per hour, dumped 42.4 centimeters, or 16.7 inches, of rain in just 12 hours, said Nathaniel Cruz, the government’s chief weather forecaster. He said the rain that fell in those 12 hours was equivalent to the amount of rain that Manila received in the whole of September.
Officials said nearly 300,000 people were displaced by Ketsana; tens of thousands were brought to evacuation centers in schools, churches, gymnasiums and public parks. In Marikina, people pitched tents wherever they could, some on the bridge over the overflowing Marikina River.
Metro Manila is a city of more than 12 million people. It has been having trouble coping with a sewage system that is perennially choked with garbage. Many parts of the city are often flooded by the slightest downpour.
The storm “submerged up to 80 percent of the city, and covered areas that never experienced flooding before, stranding people on rooftops and bringing death and misery to rich and poor alike,” according to Greenpeace.
“It was terrifying to see the water rising, especially because there were live electrical wires around us,” said Diverson Bloso Jr., a waiter at a restaurant in Quezon City that was one of many flooded establishments. “There were trash and rats and cockroaches all around us,” Mr. Bloso said as he cleaned the restaurant’s soaked wooden tables.
King Catoy, a filmmaker, rushed to Marikina City on Sunday to find out what had happened to friends who lived there. He described what greeted him there as heartbreaking. “The ground was just muck,” he said.
As he moved deeper into the city, camera in hand, Mr. Catoy recorded scenes of devastation: streets and houses covered in muck, trees that had crashed into buildings, people washing salvaged belongings in the murky river, belongings hanging by electric posts and trees, a couple holding their five dogs — the only ones left with them after the storm.
“Marikina City always prided itself of being the most orderly, the cleanest and the most prepared city in the whole country,” Mr. Catoy said. Ketsana, he said, “showed that all that may have been just a facade, like those colored houses,” referring to the row of houses that the Marikina government built for the homeless, its facade painted in pastel colors to better hide the slum community behind it. These brightly colored houses were smeared with mud on Saturday.
Indeed, according to Greenpeace, the storm exposed, if anything, Metro Manila’s unpreparedness to deal with a storm as powerful as Ketsana. Volunteers, the group said, “saw firsthand how unprepared we are to deal with such extreme weather events. Even after the waters subsided, aid and rescue workers from government, N.G.O.’s and the private sector were still overwhelmed.”
On Sunday, the rain began pouring again late in the day, raising fear among many that their suffering might be prolonged. Worsening the concern was the government weather bureau’s announcement that another storm was approaching the Philippines.
Although the storm cut power, telephone and water supply in many areas, Internet connections were generally not affected. On Facebook and Twitter, many Filipinos called out for help and shared their grief.
The social networks proved helpful as the hotlines of the government’s disaster agencies were swamped with calls. It was also on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social media networks that details of the disaster and the extent of the damage first emerged: flooded streets, cars floating like boats, houses knee-deep in water, and people — among them Cristina Reyes, a popular actress — shivering on their rooftops.
Floods bring chaos to Philippines
BBCNews.com, Sept. 26, 2009
At least five people have been killed and thousands evacuated as floods caused by heavy rain brought chaos to the Philippines.
One town is said to be completely under water. Power has been cut off to parts of the capital, Manila, where hundreds of people are trapped on rooftops.
The government has declared a calamity, allowing access to emergency funds.
Television pictures showed water flowing down roads like rivers, with the floods chest-deep and rising.
The equivalent of a whole month's rain fell over six hours, as Tropical Storm Ketsana lashed the archipelago, causing the worst flooding in Manila for 20 years.
Nearby 2,000 people were evacuated and hundreds more were stranded on rooftops.
Mayor Mon Ilagan of the town of Cainta, in Rizal province to the north, told local media his town was "almost 100% under water".
Quoted by the Associated Press news agency, deputy presidential spokesman Anthony Golez said two people died south of Manila, and three others in Quezon City. Local radio reported 10 deaths, mostly in Manila.
Roads leading into Manila were rendered impassable by stalled vehicles, and some flights and ferry services were cancelled.