Philippine authorities yesterday appealed for help in getting relief to 2 million people affected by deadly floods in and around the capital, saying that evacuation centers were overwhelmed.
After more than a month’s worth of rain was dumped on Metro Manila in 48 hours, entire districts remained submerged, although overflowing rivers had started to recede and neck-high waters seen earlier were typically down to knee deep.
The state weather service also dropped its rain warning yesterday afternoon for the sprawling metropolis of 15 million people.
Disaster chiefs said the top priority was to help the 1.95 million people affected by the floods, as masses flocked to evacuation centers in search of a dry place to sleep, food, water, medicine and clothes.
“We are repacking a lot of relief items, we need more help and are asking for more volunteers,” Philippine Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said.
“We have the food, but we need to pack them, deliver and distribute them in this massive operation,” she said.
Soliman said many evacuation centers were not able to provide much-needed warm meals to the growing number of displaced.
“Most local government units do a community kitchen, but the volume of evacuees is so big that they have been overwhelmed. We are also appealing for more medicines, blankets, mats and, more importantly, dry clothes,” she said.
The number of people in schools, gymnasiums and other buildings that had been turned into evacuation centers rose to 293,000 yesterday, from 150,000 on Wednesday, according to the government’s disaster management council.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of others were left largely to fend for themselves, seeking refuge with friends and relatives, or staying in partly submerged homes.
In a 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 3am, they had to evacuate again,” said Colonel Perfecto Penaredondo, chief military aide at the civil defense office.
One of those forced to evacuate once more, housewife Alona Geronimo, said she and her neighbors 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 saidm as she huddled with 13 other people under a gray 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 Metro Manila and killed 464 people.
Twenty people have died from this week’s rains in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, authorities said.
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.
Philippine Environment Secretary Ramon Paje warned the public to be prepared for more intense rains caused by climate change, describing this week’s deluge as the “new normal.”
However, he and other politicians emphasized that the extent of the current crisis and the fatalities were manmade, with people being allowed to live in danger-zones and watershed areas being damaged.