Disaster-weary Philippines mops up after deadly floods

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A Filipino boy rides a plastic container at a flooded residential area that sits on the banks of the swollen Laguna lake, southern Philippines on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013. Lashed each year by typhoons and stuck with outdated drainage systems, the Philippine capital has been hit by ever-worsening floods. Manila is located in a catch basin sandwiched between Manila Bay and Lake Laguna to the southeast. AP

MANILA, Philippines — Disaster-weary Philippine residents mopped up Thursday after four days of rains that officials said had killed 18 people and forced more than half a million from flooded homes.

Residents swept out their muddy floors as floods receded, having covered half of Manila’s metropolitan area on Tuesday, rescue officials said.

“It’s all mud and garbage, and our television set and electric fan were destroyed,” shoemaker’s wife Flordeliza Miranda told AFP as she returned to the family’s shanty beside the San Mateo river that was under water on Tuesday.

“We have not eaten anything since last night,” said the mother-of-two, who had slept in a tent atop a nearby bridge amid the deluge.

Philippine National Red Cross secretary-general Gwendolyn Pang said floods have receded in all but about 10 percent of the metropolis of 12 million people.

“We continue to give support to victims of the monsoon,” she told AFP, adding the focus was shifting from emergency food aid to longer-term needs for the displaced.

The bad weather killed 18 people, said Reynaldo Balido, spokesman for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, updating an earlier toll of 16.

More than 214,000 people were still crammed into government-run shelters late Thursday, while nearly 346,000 others are staying with friends and relatives, he added.

Many of the displaced were newly tallied in farming areas in the provinces north of Manila, where nearly 500 villages remained under water.

In the town of Calumpit, housewife Cora de Castro, 58, and seven children and grandchildren were crammed into a wet, noisy covered basketball court along with about 300 other flood victims.

“It is difficult here. We cannot sleep,” she told AFP.

“At least there is (tap) water here. It comes from the faucets in the bathrooms so I don’t know if it’s clean,” she added.

In Manila, trading resumed at the Philippine Stock Exchange and offices were getting back to work. But most schools have declared emergency holidays for the rest of the week as buildings are cleaned up or used as evacuation centres.

Since Sunday Manila and neighboring provinces have experienced the most intense rains in four years.

Floodwater swept through low-lying communities, forcing thousands into crowded evacuation centers like gyms, where people were forced to sleep at close quarters on the floor with cardboard for bedding.

In Cavite province near Manila, the floods dislodged concrete tombs at one cemetery, depositing them on the side of a highway, an AFP photographer saw.

State weather forecaster Bernie de Leon said 671.6 millimeters (26.8 inches) of rain fell on Manila between Sunday and Wednesday — more than the monthly average of 504.2 millimeters for August.

The seasonal monsoon had been worsened by Tropical Storm Trami, which went on to hit China on Thursday.

The Philippine islands endure about 20 major storms or typhoons annually, generally in the second half of the year and many of them deadly.

“This is the worst since (Ketsana),” de Leon told AFP, referring to a 2009 storm that killed more than 460 people and left 80 percent of Manila submerged.

The government weather station said monsoon rains would continue to pound the northern end of the main Philippine island of Luzon on Friday but the rest of the country would only experience cloudy skies and moderate rains.

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