Philippines: Red Cross acts as storms, monsoon rains and floods affect thousands

Published: 28 June 2011 16:13 CET

Necephor Mghendi and Teresita Usapdin in Manila 

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has delivered assistance to thousands of residents affected by heavy rains and flash floods. Monsoon rains, bolstered by a series of storms that have affected Philippines in the past four weeks, swamped parts of Cotabato City, North Cotabato and Maguindanao in the island of Mindanao, and most recently, Central Luzon and Bicol regions in the island of Luzon.

Starting Thursday 16 June and continuing into the weekend, non-stop heavy rains fuelled by Tropical Storm Maere caused massive flash floods in Bicol and Central Luzon regions, including the capital, Manila. Thousands of families in low-lying areas sought refuge in evacuation centres as they temporarily deserted their homes to escape fast-rising floodwater.

PRC mobilized specialized volunteers and rescuers to extend help to those affected by the floods. At the peak of the floods, Red Cross emergency response teams equipped with rubber boats rescued some 60 people from drowning.

As well as rescuing survivors, Red Cross staff and volunteers have served ready-to-eat meals to 10,000 people in evacuation centres and have distributed relief supplies such as used clothes, blankets and sleeping mats.

The Philippine national disaster agency, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), reports that the latest rains and floods left six people dead and more than a dozen missing. Close to 250,000 families have been affected – around 29,000 of them are being housed in 140 evacuation centres.

Calamity on calamity

Even before this latest spate of rains and flooding, PRC had been supporting families affected by severe floods that swamped the southern island of Mindanao in early June.

While conditions have improved, and families that evacuated to safety in the island of Luzon are gradually returning to their homes, the situation in Cotabato City, on the island of Mindanao, remains dire. Three weeks on, several areas remain flooded, in part due to water hyacinths that have clogged Rio Grande de Mindanao – the country’s second largest river system. 

According to NDRRMC, flooding in the south resulted in 12 deaths and affected 136,000 families, 21,000 of them in Cotabato City. The Cotabato City Red Cross chapter reports that more than 4,000 families are still in evacuation centres, waiting for floodwaters to recede so they can return to their homes.

So far, PRC has distributed food packages, comprising rice, noodles and sardines, as well relief supplies such as jerry cans and tarpaulins to 7,000 families in Cotabato City. Red Cross community health volunteers have also provided water treatment solutions to those in need.

“Thanks in part to support from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), we have served the worst-affected families,” said PRC secretary general, Gwendolyn Pang. “However, it is necessary for us to do more because many vulnerable families remain in need.”

The IFRC is prepared to support PRC efforts during this year’s typhoon season, with specialized personnel, additional emergency supplies and resources available in country and in the region.