First came Typhoon Ondoy, which flooded Manila and the Laguna area.

Manila had at least one million people displaced from their homes due to flooding, and many whose houses were built in low lying areas were drowned from flash flooding that they did not expect. When even movie stars have to flee to the rooftops of their houses during the flood, you know things are bad.

Right now, many are still displaced, and clean up of the area is a priority, as is making sure that the merchants don’t increase their prices illegally to take advantage of the situation. Electricity is back on, but with “rolling brownouts”.

Then a second typhoon hit the north of the island. And this one stayed, and stayed, and stayed.

Actually, it hit the northern part of the Philippines, and headed north, but then was pushed back south by a huge typhoon that is headed straight for Japan. It is now only a “tropical depression” and now is located off the west coast, but it still is threatening rain to a rain soaked area.

So it’s been raining steadily for days, but maybe now we will get some good weather.

Reports from the north are terrible, but have been overshadowed by the terrible disaster in Manila. Right now, most of the stories are about cleanup operations, but there is a worry too, because the flood danger hasn’t passed.

Geographically, around Manila you have a flat area where a lot of rice and vegetables are grown.

But most of the Philippines is mountainous, so the rains that fall in these mountainous areas are draining downstream.

In northern Luzon, the heavy rain is causing massive floods, and the roads can be blocked by landslides. In some areas, there is illegal logging that denudes the mountains, and illegal mining that destroys the environment, both of which make landslides more likely.

There are reports of landslides blocking the roads into many areas: Nor is this only a danger to small towns: The city of Baguio, whose high altitude and cool climate attracts vacationers, foreigners, and Korean students (who come to learn English), is also in danger of being isolated by landslides blocking the major roads.

Since Baguio supplies a lot of fruits and vegetables to other areas, one result is that vendors have increased the prices of ordinary vegetable in our Palenke (and there are reports that the famous Baguio strawberries are unobtainable).

The loss of part of the rice crop due to the storms will also probably cause a crisis in the next few months, so the government will probably continue to subsidize rice farmers to keep up the price while continueing to import and subsidize rice sales for the poor.

Those of us who were spared the worst of the flooding now have to cope with swollen rivers as the mountain rains swell our rivers. So the flood story is not over: Indeed, in some areas it may get worse before it gets better.

In our area, not only has the heavy rain destroyed a lot of crops, but now the irrigation dams are being opened to drain excess water to prevent overtopping and destruction of the dams. Many areas here have already been evacuated just in case.

If you wonder why a rainy country has irrigation dams, the reason is that we have two seasons: wet season, and dry season, when it rains but not every day. If you irrigate, you can get two crops of rice instead of one.

Often poor people build (illegal) houses along the canal banks, or in the flat river banks that flood easily, and they are at most risk for even minor flooding. A lot of smaller rural towns lack good sewage or drainage (in our area of town, we have open ditches for water run off…this morning, the ditches were full and flowing swiftly). Since there are no public trash bins, plastic bags and garbage just gets tossed into the streets, and can block the smaller pipes and ditches.

One reason for a lot of the flooding in Manila was lack of adequate sewer drainage. Another problem was that developers  put middle class housing developments in flood prone low lying areas.

In the Manila suburbs of Laguna, entire towns are still innundated with water. Some claim  the large fish pond industry was one reason for the flooding, since some claim the ponds partially blocked the water run off.

So although the rain is almost over, the disaster is still with us, and cleanup continues. And people from all over are helping with manpower and supplies including the US Navy, NGO’s from Japan, Malaysia, etc.

And Catholics will be happy (not) to find that the UNFPA is here, handing out 10,000 “Reproductive health kits”(aka Condoms) to evacuees in shelters.

Yes, pregnant moms may have had to deliver babies in the crowded shelters without trained attendants or sterile scissors to cut the cord, but the UN is there to make sure if people figure out how to have sex in the crowded shelters, they will be equipped to have “safe sex”.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She blogs at HeyDoc Xanga Blog.

 

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