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The Philippines: storm warning


The Philippines: storm warning

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The world watched as Super Typhoon Haiyan sliced through the Philippines in November last year.

As many as 14 million people have been affected across the Visayas region.

And lesser, more localised storms continue to kill, disrupt and destroy. The intensity and frequency of these storms are on the rise.

Storm 'Agoton' wreaked havoc in Butuan City, Mindanao in mid January.

The rainfall, which lasted days, swept away homes and damaged infrastructure.

Ramon Pattana is a councillor in Butuan City. He said: “This time it was the highest flood we have experienced in the city. The Riverside Central Elementary School is one of the worst damaged schools in our city. Everybody was surprised. Everybody is a victim of this flood.”

Super Typhoon Haiyan forced 20,000 survivors to flee Tacloban and the central island provinces.

They headed for metro Manila.

Many still need help to return home but fear what awaits.

Their stories are harrowing:

“My husband started to clean the path up to our house, but he stood on a nail. We didn’t know he was diabetic. He was bleeding, his foot became badly infected, but he
doesn’t want to have it amputated… he wants to be complete when he dies,” said one woman.

For another man from Tacloban the situation became a whole lot worse when he received the following news:

“My wife came to me, hysterical, ‘Gadang your son has been attacked in Manila’. My eldest son who was looking after his brothers and sisters had been stabbed and killed. I had to come to ask for help so we can go home, now their brother is dead. In Tacloban I have a shelter made from scraps I picked up from the typhoon.”

Clutching her grandchild as she spoke, an elderly woman said she fears for the future: “I don’t know what to do now. That is why we are asking for help. In Tacloban we don’t have a house… nothing. I don’t know where my family members are.

“That is why I am here at the Crisis Intervention Centre… they offer money or transportation help. They cover the fare back. I need to go and see the situation. We can’t all go back to Tacloban we have six kids and we don’t have a house.”

As Agoton built in strength, families had to decide whether to stay or evacuate.

One man’s decision to stay cost him his son. He explained: “I used the inner tube of a tyre to get across the flood water. What I didn’t know was that my son had followed me – he swam.

“I got back and said ‘where’s Jojo?’ My wife said ‘what do you mean? I just saw him in the water up to his waist.’ I went back to look for him. I knew he had drowned. Some boys helped us. They found him under the bridge; bloated, face up… dead.”

Many vulnerable communities live along the Agusan River and this causes problems for the civic authorities. The mayor in Butuan City is Ferdinand Amante. He said: “Along the river banks live 6,000 families considered to be in danger from the flooding.

“For so many hundreds of years the Agusan River was a source of life and living for our ancestors, but lately it has become a source of problems – a liability.

“We had to evacuate 20,000 families, that was about 101,000 individuals. Well, we try to stand on our own, but the road is difficult and very long. I am so proud to say that Butuanos – just like any other Filipinos for that matter – we are a resilient people but we need help from other countries.”

The fact of the matter is the Philippines is a poor country.

The government struggles to provide a rudimentary education and basic healthcare. At a local level the municipal authorities have a very limited budget set aside for disasters such as typhoons. And the really sad thing is everybody knows the next one is just around the corner.

Other links:
Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre
Norwegian Refugee Council

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