Philippines braced for new storm as death toll rises

Philippines braced for new storm as death toll rises

The flood-devastated Philippines was braced for a new tropical storm today, as the death toll from waters that submerged the homes of more than two million rose to 246.

Flood victims trudged through ankle-deep sludge to crowded relief centres amid news that another storm was heading toward the southern Philippines.

Officials fear more heavy rain could flood already hard-hit areas, and complicate clean-up efforts.

Tropical Storm Ketsana brought the worst flooding to the south-east 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 on 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.

At relief the centres, mostly women and their children clutching bags of belongings lined up for bottled water, boiled eggs and packets of instant noodles for a fourth day. Their husbands waded through sludge to return to their homes to clean up the mud – sometimes two feet deep – that carpeted their houses and shops.

The presidential palace was opened as a relief centre, and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s executive chef cooked gourmet food for victims at another shelter.

Ketsana strengthened and crashed into Vietnam on yesterday, killing at least 41 people who drowned, were caught in mudslides or hit by falling trees, officials said.

Some 170,000 people were evacuated from the storm, which left a trail of destruction across the country’s central region.

The storm also struck Cambodia, killing at least nine people, before weakening as it moved inland and approached Laos, but rivers were still rising and more rain was forecast for the region.

In the Philippines, officials reached further into hard-hit areas and raised the number of people listed as missing to 42 from 38, and added another 400,000 people to the list of those whose homes were swamped.

The homes of some 2.3 million people are affected, and 390,000 are seeking shelter in relief centres, disaster officials said.

“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.

Mr Abahat said he and his wife were swept to a river and eventually separated by the raging currents.

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 centre for storm victims. People lay on pieces of cardboard amid piles of rubbish 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.

Gingery Comprendio, a mother of five, said 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,” Ms 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 is also missing.

The government has declared a “state of calamity” in Manila and 25 storm-hit provinces and estimated the damage at €68.5m.

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