Disaster-weary Philippines mops up after deadly floods

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Disaster-weary Philippine residents mopped up on Thursday after four days of torrential rain that officials said had killed 16 people and forced nearly 400,000 others from flooded homes.

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Residents swept out their muddy floors as floods receded, having covered half the metropolis 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 Agence France-Presse as she returned to the family’s shanty beside the San Mateo river that went under water on Tuesday.

“We have not eaten anything since last night,” said the mother-of-two, who had slept in a makeshift 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 [rains],” she told Agence France-Presse, adding the focus of the relief effort was shifting from emergency food aid to longer-term needs for the displaced.

The bad weather killed 16 people, said Reynaldo Balido, spokesman for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, which raised the death toll by one with the body of a drowned man found east of Manila.

More than 186,000 people remained at government-run shelters early on Thursday, while nearly 200,000 others are staying with friends and relatives, he added.

Low-level floods however persisted in several nearby provinces.

“The floods are not that deep, mostly knee-high or thigh-high. There is no need for more rescues. However, the waters are stagnant,” Balido 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.

Rampaging floodwaters swept through low-lying communities, forcing thousands to crowded evacuation centers like gyms, where people were forced to sleep in close quarters on the floor with cardboard boxes for beddings.

In Cavite province near Manila, the floods dislodged concrete tombs at one cemetery, depositing them on the side of a highway, an Agence France-Presse photographer saw.The seasonal monsoon had been worsened by Tropical Storm Maring (International codename: Trami), which went on to hit Fujian province in China on Thursday.

The Southeast Asian archipelago endures 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 Ondoy [International codename: Ketsana],” de Leon told Agence France-Presse, referring to a 2009 storm that killed more than 460 people and left 80 percent of Manila submerged.

“We expect the weather to gradually improve over the coming days,” he added. AFP

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