Toronto has a thriving Filipino community that has been spearheading local relief efforts for the victims of the recent flood in the Philippines. Today I made a donation to one of these fundraising groups.
I don’t know what rock I’ve been living under, but until I made the donation, then subsequently sought out news stories about the flood online, I had no idea how severe the natural disaster was.
Here are some details excerpted from an Associated Press report:
By TERESA CEROJANO, Associated Press Writer Teresa Cerojano, Associated Press Writer – Tue Sep 29, 4:27 pm ET
MANILA, Philippines – Flood victims trudged through ankle-deep sludge to crowded relief centers in the Philippines on Tuesday, as the death toll rose to 246 from water that inundated the homes of nearly 2 million people.
Tropical Storm Ketsana brought the worst flooding to the Southeast Asian country in four decades, chasing some victims to their rooftops to escape the rising water and sweeping others down raging rivers.
The storm struck Saturday in Manila, one of the world’s largest cities with about 12 million people, and dumped more than a month’s worth of rain in just 12 hours. Flooding was worst around the Pasig River that cuts through the capital, including wealthy suburbs and shanty towns.
The presidential palace was opened as a relief center, and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s executive chef cooked gourmet food for victims at another shelter.
In the Philippines, where at least 38 people remained missing and more rain was forecast, some of the displaced families recalled their ordeal from a covered court in the town center where they sought shelter.
“What happened was the water suddenly rose. We did not know that the water would reach the second floor, so we went up to the roof but the roof gave in, so we just floated in the water holding on to a trunk of a banana tree,” said Herminio Abahat, whose wife is still missing.
Abahat said he and his wife were swept to a river and eventually separated by the raging currents.
Gingery Comprendio, a mother of five, described how she left her children on the roof of their house to alert authorities about a live electric line. When she returned, her family was gone.
“I did not know what transpired. We were on top of a roof but we got separated,” Comprendio said. “The next day when I came back to our house I saw my eldest already dead and my aunt saw my other child buried in the mud.” Her husband also remains missing.
In the Bagong Silangan area of the capital, about 150 people sheltered on a covered basketball court that had been turned into a makeshift evacuation center for storm victims. People lay on pieces of cardboard amid piles of garbage and swarming flies, their belongings crammed into bags nearby.
Seventeen white wooden coffins, some of them child-sized, lined one part of the court. A woman wept quietly beside one coffin.
Nearly 380,000 people have sought shelter in relief centers. The government has declared a “state of calamity” in Manila and 25 storm-hit provinces and estimated the damage at $97 million.
Washington had pledged $100,000 for the relief efforts and U.S. Navy personnel were helping with search and rescue, the Foreign Affairs Department said Tuesday. China, Japan, Singapore and Australia have also pledged extra aid, and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sent a message that help would come from the world body, too.
Some victims said what food and other aid was being handed out came largely from private donations, and complained they had seen no government aid or officials in their districts since Saturday’s storm.
… I won’t be complaining about our little rain showers anytime soon….