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August 13, 2012

Flooded Philippines Braces for More Rain

by Simone Orendain

MANILA — Weather forecasters say a tropical storm is expected to hit the northern Philippines.  Monsoon rains have drenched the Pacific island nation for more than two consecutive weeks, flooding scores of homes and killing more than 90 people. 

The state weather bureau of the Philippines says winds from the approaching tropical storm are stirring up the monsoon rain clouds and this will mean even more rainfall for the capital region.

While monsoon rains fall around Manila, the northernmost provinces are expected to be hit by Tropical Storm “Helen,” currently churning several hundred kilometers away in the Pacific.

The office of civil defense is preparing to evacuate residents who live in low-lying areas of the affected northern provinces. Meantime, in the capital region and surrounding provinces, evacuees who returned home after they were severely flooded, will likely have to leave again to seek higher ground.

Civil defense chief Benito Ramos says military, police and coastguard personnel are on standby for rescue mode again.

“We are still on ‘red alert.’ We haven’t downgraded our alert… 100% of our government forces, on a 24-hour basis,” said Ramos.

Ramos’ office says more than a million people whose homes were inundated last week either went to shelters or stayed with family and friends. His office expected the government’s relief goods to last another two weeks.

The Philippine Red Cross is also doing its part in about two thirds of the cities affected by last week’s floods. In addition, regional chapters are preparing to help in the north. Chairman Richard Gordon says his agency is ready on both fronts.

“We’re totally prepared for that," he says. "Our stocks are being replenished as we speak… the consumables especially. We have ordered for additional blankets and sleeping mats, as well as pre-positioning of our rubber boats, in case we get into that kind of fracas again.”

Last week, evacuation centers filled to capacity as large crowds of stranded people waded through waist deep waters to reach dry ground.  Some were rescued from roof tops.

The Department of Public Works and Highways points to garbage as a major culprit in the flooding that brought Manila to a standstill last Tuesday.

Department Secretary Rogelio Singson says pumping stations were jammed with plastic bags tangled in propellers and operators had to stop to clear them often, which delayed draining. Also he says before the rainy season started the Metro-Manila road management office cleared away trash.

“But obviously [with] the amount of garbage that went into this drainage… [It’s] mid-rainy season… [and] we’re starting to clean-up again the drainage system,” he says.

About 20 typhoons per year dump rain on the Philippines. 

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