Anybody who has been watching the news this past weekend is well aware that a real disaster has struck Metro Manila and the surrounding area. Tropical Storm Ondoy passed over Luzon, to the North of Manila, but the Manila area really got the brunt of the rain. Ondoy was not a Typhoon, but short of it. However, it really packed a punch when it came to rain!
The rain in Manila on Saturday was actually even worse than New Orleans experienced during Katrina several years ago. In just a matter of a few hours, the Manila area got more than 16 inches of rain on Saturday, and more than 80% of the area was under water at the worst. Even as I type this on Sunday evening, the majority of Metro Manila is still under water. So far, 75 deaths have been confirmed from the flooding, with the number expected to rise substantially when the final figures are known.
On Saturday morning, I had heard that there was bad flooding in Manila. However, flooding in Manila is not an unusual event, it actually happens regularly. So, when I heard about flooding there, I really did not think too much about it. By Saturday afternoon, though, I switched the TV on and flipped over the ANC (ABS-CBN News Channel) which is sort of like a local version of CNN. As soon as I saw the news, I was shocked at what I was seeing. The streets were like rivers! Not only rivers, but some of the streets looked like places for white water rafting, with rapids moving through the streets.
I saw one video taken from a bridge in Marikina City, one of the hardest hit areas, in which you could actually see dozens of people being swept through the water under the bridge. The people on the bridge were actually throwing ropes to the people in the water, but they were moving by so fast that it was virtually useless.
The Philippine Government, and also private citizens in the area have mobilized a huge rescue effort. Just like we saw during Katrina, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of people up on their roofs in the Manila area, because it is the only place where they can be to avoid the water. Private companies and the government also are flying helicopters into neighborhoods and plucking people from their roofs. When you watch the events on ANC, people are using their cell phones to call the News Channel and plead for rescuers to come and get them. It’s really a sad situation.
According to the TV stations, this is the worst flooding that Manila has experienced since records have been kept. Seeing the video of the city, I believe that too.
A good friend of mine had been visiting in Manila for a few days, and was supposed to fly back to Davao on Saturday, but the airport was closed. All flights in and out of Manila had been canceled. He went back to the re-opened airport on Sunday, and there were 450 people in line in front of him, but he was able to get a late flight back to Davao.
If you are in a position to assist financially for the victims of this disaster, there are a number of things you can do. I called the American Red Cross and confirmed that if you wish to donate cash, you can donate through the Red Cross in your country, and you should specify that the funds are for the “International Response Fund” and specify that you want it to go to Philippine flood victims. If you prefer, you can donate to the Philippine Red Cross, but it would be easier for you to use the Red Cross (or Red Crescent) in the country where you are currently located. I am quite sure that any donation toward this disaster would be most helpful. A lot of people are suffering in the Philippines right now.