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Philippines Launches Massive Relief Operation After Flood


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The Philippines has appealed for international assistance following the worst flooding in more than 40 years. At least 140 people have been killed as a result of the heavy rains and, as the death toll from the disaster continues to rise, the government has been overwhelmed by its scale.

The Philippine government is scrambling to provide shelter, food and basic supplies for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the floods.

Tropical storm Ketsana brought torrential rains to the northern Philippines Saturday, inundating most of the capital Manila and surrounding provinces. Surging water washed away buildings and cars. Scores of people were killed and many are still missing.

President Gloria Arroyo called the disaster an "extreme event" that has strained the government's capabilities to the limit. She said rescue efforts will continue until all residents are accounted for.

Two days after the flooding, rescue and relief operations continue to be hampered by the lack of rubber boats and helicopters. Many victims are demanding answers from local authorities for the lack of advance warning and the slow response to the emergency. Victims said they were stranded on their rooftops for hours before help arrived.

Flood waters in some areas subsided Monday but thousands of homes are still without power.

The government has appealed for international humanitarian assistance. Vilma Cabrera, assistant secretary of the Philippine Social Welfare Department, said Monday her agency needs donations of basic necessities.

"Right now we need mats, blankets, mosquito nets, cooking utensils. We need hygiene kits and we need flashlights and lighting equipment," said Cabrera.

People have been warned about the danger of water-borne diseases. Schools are closed until Tuesday and many offices remain shut.

Storms lash the Philippines every year and tropical Storm Ketsana was not one of the strongest, but it brought very large amounts of rain. In Manila Saturday, a month's worth of rain fell in 12 hours.