x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Manila struggling to cope

Three days on officials say they are unable to cope with the enormous number of flood victims still pouring into evacuation centres.

Hundreds of thousands of exhausted Philippine flood survivors crammed into schools, gymnasiums, churches and other makeshift shelters on Tuesday as the death toll from the weekend disaster soared to 246. Three days after a once-in-a-generation storm pounded Manila and surrounding regions, officials said they were unable to cope with the enormous number of flood victims still pouring into evacuation centres.

"More people are coming in by the hour.... We don't know how long we will be able to sustain this," said Joe Ferrer, a local government official in charge of a shelter on a basketball court on the edge of the Manila area. "We need clothing, food supplies, food rations and medicine." Already 3,000 people from the depressed San Andres neighbourhood were at the basketball court, and flood survivors said they were tired and hungry. There was a single toilet for all of them.

The government said 320,000 survivors of the devastating rains unleashed by tropical storm Ketsana on Saturday were sheltering in hundreds of centres, while nearly 250,000 others were receiving some form of aid elsewhere. The president Gloria Arroyo described the floods as a "once-in-a-lifetime" event, and in an extraordinary move opened the Malacanang presidential palace to flood survivors. After word of the offer spread, hundreds of people converged on the palace and received plastic bags filled with noodles and canned sardines.

"We just heard it in the news that they are giving relief goods at the palace so we walked for one hour," said street sweeper Rosette Serrano, 31, who lost everything but her clothes when her house was submerged on Saturday. However, officials said people would only be allowed to stay inside the presidential compound and shelter there after vetting by aid organisations. "We cannot just allow every evacuee in because of logistical and security problems," Wilfredo Oca, an aide to Ms Arroyo, said.

The death toll jumped significantly after authorities finally started to record those killed in Manila, and not just the neighbouring regions. The latest toll of 246 was over 100 more than Monday's assessment. The government said 101 people had been confirmed killed in the capital, up from seven on Monday. * AFP