x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Scale of Philippines tragedy emerging

As the Philippines begins to grasp the destruction caused by the storms, Filipinos in the UAE heed their compatriots' appeals for help.

As the Philippines began to grasp the extent of the destruction caused by the weekend's devastating storms, Filipinos in the UAE have rallied to their compatriots' appeals for help, sending millions of dirhams' worth of aid back to the disaster-struck areas. The tropical storm dropped more than a normal month's rain on Manila on Saturday before moving away towards Vietnam and strengthening into a typhoon.

It made landfall in central Vietnam yesterday, killing at least 23 people as it brought flooding and winds of up to 144kph. Three days after a once-in-a-generation storm pounded Manila and nearby regions, officials said they were 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 as the death toll from the weekend disaster soared to 246.

More than half a million people were thought to have been made homeless by the worst storm to hit the area in 40 years. "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 running a shelter on a basketball court on the edge of Manila. "We need clothing, food supplies, food rations and medicine." 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.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the president, described the floods as a "once in a lifetime" event, and in an extraordinary move she opened the Malacanang presidential palace to flood survivors. After word of the offer spread, people converged on the palace and received plastic bags filled with noodles and canned sardines. A second tropical cyclone is forming and may reach the Philippines, the World Meteorological Organisation said yesterday.

In Abu Dhabi, Ernesto Refugio, the vice chairman of the board of trustees of Filex UAE, a foundation established last year to provide financial assistance to Filipinos in great financial need, appealed for cash donations in the short term. "Donations in kind will also be expected," he said, "but we still need to determine the immediate needs of the typhoon victims." Robert Ramos, the overall chairman of the Filipino community organising committee in Dubai and the northern Emirates, said there were more than 70 Filipino organisations in the UAE and that each was being urged to make a donation.

While many are collecting for the Philippines, the Foreign Aid Co-ordination Office, which is cataloguing global aid donations made by UAE organisations and individuals, said it expected the total charitable contributions to run into tens of billions of dirhams when announced later this year. Hazza al Qahtani, the agency's director general said that one organisation had reported donating Dh18 billion between 2000 and 2008 alone. *The National