Storm with no name death toll: 60By Philip C. Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
It has been billed as the storm with no name.
But the torrential monsoon rains that pounded Metro Manila and surrounding provinces beginning Sunday left 60 people dead and caused at least P1 billion in damage to agriculture in one region alone, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported on Friday.
More than half of the National Capital Region, home to 12 million people, went under water at the peak of the floods brought on by relentless monsoon rains.
About 2.4 million people in the metropolis and surrounding provinces were affected, forcing more than 360,000 to seek shelter in government-run evacuation centers.
The floods had largely subsided, allowing people to return to their homes, but water remained waist-deep across a huge area of rice-growing Central Luzon.
The death toll rose to 60 early Friday after casualty reports came in from more provinces, said Benito Ramos, executive director of the NDRRMC.
“The number of casualties has ballooned because the floods are receding and we are beginning to find bodies,” Ramos said.
Of the 60 dead, 11 died in landslides, 39 drowned, four were electrocuted, and two died of cardiac arrest. Four who remained unidentified died of still undetermined causes.
More than ‘Gener’
The widespread flooding claimed more lives than the 53 taken by Typhoon “Gener” last week.
Ramos said the southwest monsoon rains also affected 2,442,135 people in 31 cities and 16 provinces, from the Ilocos region in the north to Western Visayas in the central Philippines.
In Central Luzon alone, the rains and the floods caused P1.095 billion in damage to crops and livestock, the agency said.
The death toll is expected to increase further, as the agency’s regional office in Central Visayas has reported five more deaths that have not been tallied by the NDRRMC main office in Manila.
The agency said seven people were still missing as of Friday morning.
The Philippine Coast Guard said it continued to look for two fishermen who had been reported missing since Monday in waters off Baler in Aurora province.
As of 6 a.m. Friday, there were still 24 roads and three bridges that were not passable to all types of vehicles due to flooding in Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), Western Visayas, the Cordillera Administrative Region and Metro Manila.
Ramos said the agency’s main concern now that the rains had stopped was to ensure the cleanup of previously flooded areas and the 726 evacuation centers housing 362,307 people.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We don’t want to have breeding grounds for mosquitoes,” Ramos said. “So far, we have yet to hear of any disease outbreak.”
The NDRRMC said government and private groups had provided more than P45 million in relief assistance to the flood victims.
But as the skies cleared, the destruction to agricultural crops in Central Luzon became clearer with initial reports showing that Pampanga bore the brunt of the nonstop rains.
The NDRRMC-Central Luzon reported that Pampanga lost more than P847 million in crops, fisheries and livestock. In Bulacan the damage to agriculture reached more than P204 million, and in Zambales more than P43 million.
An initial assessment by the Philippine Insurers and Reinsurers Association (Pira) placed the damage from the torrential monsoon rains at “a lot less” amount than the P11 billion recorded in the aftermath of Tropical Storm “Ondoy” in September 2009.
Pira chair Pedro Benedicto Jr. said in a statement that this time floodwaters rose more slowly than during Ondoy. Since then, he said, Filipinos have become more “insurance conscious.”
The group, composed of 83 nonlife insurance companies, has conducted an informal survey that produced “encouraging results,” Benedicto said.
“It may still be too early to say, but so far we [are confident] that the damage is way below than that from Ondoy,” Benedicto said.
The government’s response to the calamity has caught the attention of the Senate. Sen. Edgardo Angara issued a statement Friday that said the Senate would look at the government disaster management plan during deliberations on the proposed P2-trillion budget for next year.
Angara said the Senate would require that the plan be anchored on risk reduction, mitigation and adaption.
If natural calamities such as this week’s torrential monsoon rains are indeed the “new normal,” then the government ought to implement strategies it has not done before, Angara said, using Environment Secretary Ramon Paje’s description of this week’s calamity. With reports from Tina G. Santos, Ronnel W. Domingo, Norman Bordadora and AP