On my family blog, I often write the headline: Another Day, Another Typhoon.
The Philippines gets hit by about ten typhoons a year, but we live inland so are usually safe.
On Saturday, however, the winds were brisk and the rains very very heavy. Our house has good drainage, but the main street where the vendors have placed their stalls after the Palenke burned down was wet, in some areas ankle high.
Luckily the irrigation dams held, so neighborhoods didn’t suffer another flood as they did last year. The bad news is that we’re in the middle of a rice harvest, and one can’t harvest in the rain, and the newly harvested rice can’t be dried on the roadways and schoolyards as is the custom, but has to be dried by the rice mills, cutting the slim profit edge for rice farmers this year. So although our area north of Manila has no major flooding, nevertheless the storm may threaten the livelihood of local farmers in the rich farmlands in Luzon.
One of the problems with storms is that it takes out our information systems: No electricity, no internet, no cable TV. We have a generator, but for most folks this meant candles. And of course we have refrigerators, and live near the food producing areas, so obtaining food is not a problem.
But south of here, especially in Manila, it is a major disaster.
Entire neighborhoods were under six feet of water, made worse as the run off from rural areas merged with the already swollen rivers.
This is the worst flood since 1967, and although flooding of townsÂ in low lying areas is normal, and fatalities are alas common in such floods, this time, the flooding hit new middle class neighborhoods. Some stories were about newspeople whose houses were flooded, about hundreds stranded in the shopping malls, people being plucked off of roofs, rescuers being swept away by the current, entire barangays (neighborhoods/townships) under water, flooded roads, no electricity (cut off for safety reason) etc. One bright spot was that the newly opened elevated railway continued to function, and so our lovely president, Gloria Arroyo had to visit flood stricken areas by taking the elevated train to outlying neighborhoods.
Even those who were not badly flooded out were pretty well isolated: Too many roadways under water, and so by Sunday there were calls to send in food and bottled water to Manila for those who lacked supplies.
The reports will probably get worse, as the reports from the outlying villages start coming in, especially in the hilly areas. There are many treeless slopes (due to illegal logging), and landslides are a major killer.such as the 12 dead in a landslide in Antipolo, but more reports are expected, especially if there is further rainstorms.
One suspects the final death toll will be in the high 100′s, and the homeless will probably be in the hundreds of thousands.
The press will undoubtably blame all of this on global warming, but ironically the New York Times hints that part of the flooding is man made, but in a different way:
Metro Manila is a city of more than 12 million people. It has been having trouble coping with a sewage system that is perennially choked with garbage. Many parts of the city are often flooded by the slightest downpour.
Yes, there was flooding because 30 cm of water (a month’s worth of rain) came down in a day.
But there was also flooding because of inadequate sewers, because houses were built in low lying areas without proper drainage. Landslides take lives because corruption allowed illegal logging. And houses will crumble because they were poorly built.
The main problem now will be finding places for the homeless, many of whom will move in with family until the flood waters settle, and then try to find if their homes are still there, and can be cleaned up. Undoubtedly the death toll will rise as the numbers come in from the poorer areas in metro Manila and the more isolated hamlets outside the city, and there is a big worry about disease.
But the railway survived, the cellphones still worked so that reports could get out. And Manila bloggers were active in reporting the news on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter.
Newsman/blogger Manuel Quezon III has lots of numbers on his website on how to help, but for those outside the country, donations to the RedCross/Red Crescent can be directed to be sent to help flood victims.
As for us, we are fine. It’s sunny today, and we will try to rescue what was left of our rice harvest.
Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.