Philippine flood disaster

The death toll in the Philippines from Tropical Storm Ketsana climbed to 246 as the government, under fire for its response to the flooding, said the economy may grow less than forecast amid mounting cyclone damage.

At least 38 people are missing, the National Disaster Coordinating Council agency said in a report at 3 p.m. today. Gwen Pang, secretary general of the Philippine National Red Cross, said in a Bloomberg television interview she expects the number of fatalities to increase.

More than 1.9 million people were affected by the floods and 567,000 people are in evacuation centers, the council said. The government declared a “state of calamity” for the Manila metropolitan region and other parts of Luzon island as well as Mindoro island to the south.

Ketsana, named after a tree in Laos, dropped more than a month’s rain on northern Manila, the weather bureau said. About 411 millimeters (16 inches) fell there, exceeding the September monthly average of 391 millimeters and the bureau’s record for one day of 331 millimeters in 1967.

“The recent storm could reduce the real GDP growth rate in full year 2009 by at least 0.043 percentage points,” Economic Planning Secretary Augusto Santos said in a statement, citing his presentation to President Gloria Arroyo today. Growth may slow to a range of 0.7 percent to 1.7 percent compared to a target of 0.8 percent to 1.8 percent, he said.

The government will keep the target “for now,” Santos said, citing stronger-than-forecast overseas remittances that make up about 10 percent of the economy.

Damage to infrastructure and farm production caused by the cyclone is estimated at 4.7 billion pesos ($98.8 million), the disaster coordinating council said.

Failure of Planning

There was “a failure of planning, anticipation and management,” said Mario Taguiwalo, president of the National Institute for Policy Studies in Manila. “If you compare the number rescued versus the people at grave risk, they were reaching a very small percentage.”

President Arroyo and her ministers donated two months of their salaries to the Department of Social Welfare to help those affected by the floods, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro said after a meeting of the Cabinet today. Cabinet members earn less than $1,000 a month.

The Cabinet also said government employees will get their Christmas bonuses, equal to one month’s salary, early and recommended companies do the same.

People flocked to the Malacanang Palace, the president’s official residence in western Manila, for aid today, after Arroyo said yesterday she would open it for relief supplies and as an evacuation center.

While most of the waters in Manila have receded, areas including Pasig in the eastern part of the city of almost 12 million people and Cainta in Rizal province remain flooded. Residents and government workers are cleaning homes, buildings and neighborhoods of everything from mud to cars involved in accidents.

Schools in Manila and some surrounding areas will remain shut through Friday, the government said. College students will be mobilized to clean up schools and roads, officials said.

Some schools and warehouses are being used for evacuation and relief operations, with volunteers receiving, packing and sending out donated goods.

“They’re catching up,” Taguiwalo said. “The evacuation centers are well set up, but my sense is that they’re not thinking ahead again in terms of what kind of assistance people will need in terms of household necessities, building materials.”

The government should consider providing vouchers to survivors, he said.

System Overwhelmed

The storm and floods have “really overwhelmed our system,” Anthony Golez, the officer in charge of the Office of Civil Defense, said in a phone interview yesterday.

An assessment of needs carried out by UN and Philippine officials will be completed by today as the basis for a “flash appeal” to be sent to the international community within five days, Jacqui Badcock, UN resident coordinator in the Philippines, said in an interview.

The last time the Philippines issued a flash appeal was in December 2006 after four typhoons that hit the Southeast Asian nation in a span of 10 weeks killed almost a thousand people.

The UN said in a statement it will provide food rations to about 180,000 people in the areas worst affected.

Clean water, food, cooking gas and medicines are difficult to find, said Cora Guidote, a corporate executive helping in relief operations in Marikina, northern Manila.

“The situation is pretty desperate,” she said. Business is “at a standstill because of mud and muck everywhere. People are tired of cleaning with very little sleep. Kids and old people are getting sick.”

One of two tropical depressions that formed east of the Philippines strengthened to a tropical storm overnight, according to the U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning center. Tropical Storm Parma, the 19th storm of the northwest Pacific cyclone season, was 802 kilometers (510 miles) southwest of Guam with winds of 74 kilometers per hour at 8 a.m. Philippines time today, the center said.

The storm was moving southwest at 28 kilometers per hour and is expected to turn to the northwest and strengthen to a typhoon by Oct. 2. It may approach Luzon as early as one day after that.

“We’re preparing more goods, more water for the people” ahead of the new storm, Red Cross’s Pang said. People in evacuation centers may have to stay until the next storm is over, she added.

Ketsana, called Ondoy in the Philippines, crossed the coast of central Vietnam today, killing at least 23 people in Vietnam, the Associated Press reported, citing disaster officials.

Ketsana is the deadliest storm to hit the Philippines since Typhoon Fengshen slammed into the eastern island of Samar in June last year, leaving 730 people dead and 637 missing.

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  1. […] Philippine flood disaster « Topics of today – view page – cached The death toll in the Philippines from Tropical Storm Ketsana climbed to 246 as the government, under fire for its response to the flooding, said the economy may grow less than forecast amid mounting… (Read more)The death toll in the Philippines from Tropical Storm Ketsana climbed to 246 as the government, under fire for its response to the flooding, said the economy may grow less than forecast amid mounting cyclone damage. (Read less) — From the page […]

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