PH rushes aid to flood victims

Posted at 08/08/2012 2:48 PM | Updated as of 08/08/2012 2:51 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Emergency workers and troops rushed food, water and clothes to nearly 850,000 people displaced and marooned from deadly floods spawned by 11 straight days of southwest monsoon rains that soaked the Philippine capital and nearby provinces.

About 60 percent of Manila, a sprawling metropolis of about 12 million people, remained inundated on Wednesday, Benito Ramos, head of the national disaster agency, told Reuters,

Eleven people were reported killed on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 64 since steady rains started when Typhoon Saola hit northern portions of the main Luzon island in late July.

Financial markets reopened after being shut on Tuesday, but schools and many businesses remained shut for a second straight day with the military, police and civic officials struggling to deliver aid as water swept through the city turning major roads into rivers.

Still, many people were reluctant to leave flooded homes, fearing a loss of valuables, officials said.

"We're also asking people living along swollen riverbanks to evacuate," Ramos said. "If there is a need for us to force them to leave their homes, we will do that for their own safety."

Jesse Robredo, the interior secretary, said the government has started drawing up plans to permanently relocate residents along riverbanks and coastal areas to reduce property and human losses during the rest of the typhoon and monsoon season.

The national disaster agency said on Wednesday morning it had distributed food, water, clothes and medicines to people marooned inside flooded homes and at temporary shelter areas.

"We were hoping to go home because it's difficult here. The sleeping conditions are not comfortable, and it's not easy to get food," Joyce Anne Diri, a mother of three, told Reuters at a temporary shelter in flooded Marikina City in the eastern part of the capital.

The seasonal monsoon rains in the Philippines gathered strength this year from Typhoon Saola and as tropical storm Haikui travelled through the Philippine Sea this week. But the rains should dissipate by Thursday, the weather bureau said, as Haikui made landfall in China.

On Wednesday, the weather bureau lifted the rainfall alert level even as the volume of rainfall in the last 24 hours rose to 390 mm (15.3 inches) from 323 mm in the previous day.

The highest recorded 24-hour rainfall was 454 mm in September 2009, inundating 80 percent of the capital and resulted in the death of more than 700 people and destruction of $1 billion (641.1 million pounds) worth of private and public property.

The combination of almost two weeks of constant rains and an overflowing lake that fed into the Pasig River, a tidal estuary swollen well beyond flood crest, was made worse as the high tide pushed in more water from the western ocean bay.

"We're still concerned about the situation in the coastal areas," Ramos said after conducting an aerial survey of hard-hit areas. "It was difficult to distinguish the sea from the flood waters."

Four provinces near Manila were placed under a state of calamity, including the rice-growing provinces of Bataan and Pampanga.

The farm department estimates the damage so far to crops, mainly rice, at 152 million pesos ($3.6 million).