The good news is that our rice fields (in central Luzon) weren’t ruined by Typhoon Frank. Most of our fields are well drained and the plants were low enough not to be destroyed by the wind, which was only moderate in our rice growing area.

But our organic vegetables, especially those being harvested, were blown down. Most of the palm trees and fruit trees made it through the typhoon, but not every area was that lucky. West of here, in Bulacan and Pampanga, flooding caused a lot of people’s homes to be damaged, and probably will destroy much of the rice crop in the lower fields. But Luzon is a larger island, so the winds tend to get less severe as the typhoon passes by. Here the main danger is flooding.

A lot of people live along irrigation ditches or streams, so if the streams overflow, the houses are damaged or destroyed. A lot of houses are wood with tin roofs (older houses might be bamboo with thatch roof, but plywood and tin roofs last longer in rain and you don’t have as many bugs). With land reform and “prosperity”, many farmers have concrete houses, very basic, often with a TV antenna on top. These are stronger, and no termite worry. Yet even concrete houses are in danger if the foundation is washed away. And, of course, many people have houses or fields in the flood plain. Often the roads are on a causeway: You go over a river, which is thirty feet below, but the river bank is ten feet below you, and that is where a lot of people live, farming nearby fields and fishing etc. to make extra money.

But the main damage is to the Visayas, the central Philippines, which is composed of many smaller islands. The Philstar has a long list of reports here, if you want details.

As of yesterday, the DSWD has assisted some 287,293 families or 503,769 individuals in the affected areas, of which 227,791 of the families were from Region 6.

So a lot of help will be needed, and local aid workers are already busy getting supplies and help to the region.

The bad news is that not only were a lot of the growing crops lost (and will have to be replanted) but that 180thousands sacs of rice stored n one government warehouse was flooded and destroyed.

This does NOT mean a rice shortage, since the main rice growing areas in Luzon were lightly hit, and even the destroyed crops can be replanted this early in the season. But it does mean disaster for farmers who lost their crops and houses and will have to rebuild and replant.

The big story, of course, continues to be the ferry disaster. The UKTelegraph has the story of survivors HERE…and these stories are being related on the TV and radio.

The Philippines has eight ships and 30 divers there trying to rescue people, and the US Navy has sent one of their “prepositioned ships”, USNS Stockham, with supplies and helicopters to help in the rescue, along with some Navy P-3 patrol airplanes. The Philippines has at least one helicopter in the area already, but more are needed to try to find floating survivors and other life rafts that may have drifted far from the wreck.

The sad news is that with each hour, the suspicion is that few will be found alive, and the task will be to collect and rescue the bodies. The plan is to open the ship and let divers bring the bodies up, but how this will be done is still being argued. The first divers who arrived checked for survivors, including tapping for response, but there were none. And divers who went into the wreck found bodies with lifejackets on floating inside the wreckage.

This is the third ferry disaster for this company, who is stonewalling survivor’s families, and people are getting angry about it. They are offering a bounty for the dead, but the question is: how many more lives will end before these companies start taking safety seriously? And the anger is fueled by the suspicion that the owners might have given gifts to officials to look the other way while they took chances to make a buck.

Some question why the ferry left at all; yet the typhoon was expected to stay off the eastern Philippines, and changed course only after the ferry left Manila. But a larger question is why the ferry captain didn’t divert to seek shelter, as two other superferries that left at the same time managed to do.

And there were questions if the ferry, which was fairly new, was seaworthy. Reports that the engine broke down, leading to the ship running aground and then turned over. Was something wrong with the engine? Ships logs will have to be found by salvagers and checked…but even then, would the paper work be accurate?

No proof, of course, of any of this: Just gossip.

But local people are angry…and the politicians will be investigating the reasons behind the disaster. ..

And to make things worse, the wreck has 200 thousand liters of oil in it’s tanks, which if it starts to leak, could be a major ecodisaster.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind CLinic and Fishmarket.

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