62 dead, 2.4 million affected by habagat rains, floods
MANILA, Philippines - Sixty-two people have died while 10 have gone missing from heavy rains and floods in the Philippines caused by a storm-enhanced "habagat" or the southwest monsoon, disaster management officials said Friday night.
More than half of the deaths were caused by drowning, latest data from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said.
Eleven others died from landslide.
Ten people also remain missing, the NDRRMC said.
The heavy rains and floods have affected almost 2.5 million people in 149 towns and 31 cities in 16 provinces, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
More than 384,000 have sought shelter in evacuation centers, the DSWD said.
Search and rescue operations have helped a total 57,150 people, according to the NDRRMC.
A state of calamity has been declared in the following areas:
- Metro Manila: Manila, Marikina, Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela, Muntinlupa, San Juan, Pasig, Pasay, Caloocan, Taguig, and Pateros
- REGION I: Pangasinan Province
- REGION III: Bataan, Pampanga, Zambales, and Bulacan
- REGION IV-A: Laguna, Rizal
- REGION IV-B: Abra de Ilog, Occidental Mindoro; Culion, Palawan; El Nido, Palawan; Linapacan, Palawan
Central Luzon is the hardest-hit area, with floods affecting at least 1,545,380 people.
Around 343,193 people were affected in Metro Manila.
The national government has yet to release estimates on the damage caused by the massive floods, but the DSWD said P45.3 million worth of relief assistance have been given by the national and local governments, and non-government organizations for flood victims.
Worst floods since the 1970s
The flooding that submerged 80 percent of Manila early in the week has largely subsided, allowing people to return to their homes, but vital rice-growing areas to the north remained under water as more rain fell there.
"We need something to eat. I haven't gone to work or been paid for a week," said Rogelio Soco, a construction worker and father-of-three in the small farming town of Apalit, about 60 kilometres (40 miles) from Manila.
Soco, 60, said the floods, which began on Monday, were the worst the area had seen since a huge typhoon struck in the early 1970s, and other locals also said they had not experienced anything like it for decades.
Around Apalit, formerly green rice paddies had been turned into an enormous inland ocean of brown water.
Rice farmer Pablo Torres, 58, said his two-hectare (five-acre) field planted last month had likely been destroyed, and dozens of people in his community had suffered the same fate.
"We will have to do it all over again... we have lost a lot of money here," he said.
Nearly two weeks of monsoon rains across the Philippines' main island of Luzon peaked with a 48-hour deluge earlier this week that battered Manila and surrounding regions.
The government said it was struggling to cope with the scale of a relief effort across Luzon that was expected to last for weeks.
Tens of thousands of people were continuing to stream into evacuation centres that were already overcrowded and unable to provide enough immediate relief goods.
"The water is still high and the local government units are getting overwhelmed," Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman told AFP, referring to the farming provinces north of Manila she was touring on Friday.
International charity group Save the Children warned that a lack of toilets and clean water in evacuation centres could lead to outbreaks of disease.
"We have seen multiple cases of diarrhoea, flu and skin rash in evacuation centres, all of which can spread very quickly if people do not have good hygiene practices," said Anna Lindenfors, the group's country director.
In Manila, clean-up operations were underway in riverside communities that endured waters up to two metres (six and a half feet) high on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Francesca Deimoy, 54, a resident of Marikina, one of the worst-hit districts, said the community was worried about further flooding with the monsoon season only just beginning.
"I sometimes feel like I could cry because you don't know what to do. You think the worst is over and then the flood comes back," she said.
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 Tropical Storm Ketsana killed 464 people in 2009.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje warned that the Philippines must prepare for more intense rains caused by climate change, describing the latest deluge as the "new normal." - with a report from Cecil Morella, Agence France-Presse