Philippines appeals for flood aid

The Philippines has appealed for international assistance following the worst flooding in more than 40 years. At least 140 people have been killed and another 32 are missing as a result of the heavy rains, and the death toll from the disaster continues to rise.

The Philippine government has been attempting to provide shelter, food and basic supplies for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the floods.

Tropical storm Ketsana brought torrential rains to the northern Philippines on Saturday, inundating most of the capital Manila and surrounding provinces. Surging water washed away buildings and cars. Scores of people were killed and many are still missing.

President Gloria Arroyo called the disaster an “extreme event” that has strained the government’s capabilities to the limit. She said rescue efforts will continue until all residents are accounted for.

Two days after the flooding, rescue and relief operations continue to be hampered by the lack of rubber boats and helicopters. Many victims are demanding answers from local authorities for the lack of advance warning and the slow response to the emergency. Victims said they were stranded on their rooftops for hours before help arrived.

“We are concentrating on massive relief operations. [But] the system is overwhelmed, local government units are overwhelmed,” said National Disaster Coordinating Council deputy administrator Anthony Golez to reporters Monday.

Flood waters in some areas subsided on Monday, but thousands of homes are still reported to be without power.

The government has appealed for international humanitarian assistance. Vilma Cabrera, assistant secretary of the Philippine Social Welfare Department, said Monday her agency needs donations of basic necessities.

“Right now we need mats, blankets, mosquito nets, cooking utensils. We need hygiene kits and we need flashlights and lighting equipment,” said Cabrera.

“We are appealing for international humanitarian assistance,” said the Philippines’s defence secretary, Gilberto Teodoro. “The potential for a more serious situation is there and we cannot wait for that to happen.”

The United States donated about US$100,000 to the Philippines after the disaster, as well as deploying twenty US soldiers on five rubber boats and a helicopter. The World Food Program and the UN Children’s Fund have both donated food and other materials.

People have been warned about the danger of water-borne diseases. Philippine schools have been closed until Tuesday, and many offices remained closed .

Storms lash the Philippines every year. Tropical Storm Ketsana, although not one of the strongest, brought very large amounts of rain. In Manila Saturday, a month’s worth of rain fell in just 12 hours.

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