x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Flood-ravaged Philippines needs $74m additional aid

Money needed to rebuild houses and feed the homeless after worst flooding in country's capital in more than four decades

MANILA // The Philippines needs an additional US$74 million (Dh272m) in aid to deal with the aftermath of a recent storm that caused the worst flooding in the country's capital in more than four decades, officials said yesterday. The government has received more than $13m in funds and aid from at least 12 countries but needed more assistance to help rebuild thousands of destroyed houses and feed hundreds of thousands of people who fled their homes as Tropical Storm Ketsana lashed Manila and nearby provinces on September 26, officials said. Nearly 300 people were killed and the homes of four million people were inundated.

Eight days after Ketsana struck, Typhoon Parma blew across the country's mountainous north, bringing more rain to the still-sodden region. Parma killed an additional 16 people in floods and landslides. It has weakened into a tropical storm but has lingered off the Philippine coast, drenching northern provinces and neighbouring Taiwan. The defence secretary, Gilbert Teodoro, who heads the government's National Disaster Co-ordinating Council, will appeal today for more than $74m in foreign assistance through the United Nations, according to the council's administrator, Glenn Rabonza.

The additional aid will allow the government "to meet the urgent relief and early recovery needs of the most vulnerable persons" devastated by the storm and flooding, Mr Rabonza said. A third typhoon, Melor, blew into Philippine waters on Monday, but has shifted course and was heading toward southern Japan late yesterday, Nathaniel Cruz, the chief government forecaster, said. In Rome, the World Food Programme said yesterday it was providing helicopters and dinghies to help get food to hundreds of thousands of people who remain stranded.

"Many needy people live in areas that still remain inaccessible because of the widespread flooding," Stephen Anderson, the WFP's director in the Philippines, said in a statement from the UN agency's Rome headquarters. The first seven of 30 inflatable boats requested by the Philippine government arrived yesterday in Manila, the statement said, adding that the first two of three requested helicopters were set to arrive today.

WFP is providing 10,000 tonnes of food but estimates the need at 26,000. The UN agency's assistance totals $26m, about one third of the money requested in the appeal launched yesterday in Geneva. "WFP is continuing to expand food assistance to help one million people over the next three months," said Emilia Casella, a spokeswoman. At least 16 hospitals, as well as rural and community health centres, were damaged, the World Health Organisation said. The UN Children's Fund (Unicef) warned that cases of diarrhoea and skin ailments had been recorded, raising fears about epidemics.

A WHO spokesman, Paul Garwood, said the risk was heightened by the damage to water and sanitation systems, especially within areas where health facilities were out of action. "There are fears of outbreaks of communicable diseases, as yet there have been no reported major outbreaks," he added. Relief agencies reported that flood victims were wading through neck-high water to collect emergency food rations.

The storms and flooding have also destroyed about $117m in crops including rice, according to government estimates quoted by OCHA. * Associated Press, Agence France-Presse