Sunday, September 27, 2009

Swept Away

All that Maria Galope can save were her old television set, few wet clothes, and some scraps of rusty metal.

Maria, a mother of six children, lost her house and belongings after tropical storm Ondoy (international name: Ketsana) swept her makeshift hut last Sept. 26. Ondoy’s massive rains overflowed the river near her hut in the town of San Jose del Monte, Bulacan province.

“Thank God we’re alive,” said a teary-eyed Maria. She does not know, however, how she will be able to rebuild her house or earn a living again. All their belongings, including her children’s schoolbooks and husband’s job application documents, were swept away by the river.

“Why would I stay near the river when I know that it can kill me and my family if a typhoon like Ondoy happens again?” Maria asked in Filipino. “But I cannot do anything because I need to earn a living for my family.” Maria earns P100 (about $2) by cleaning used plastic in the river and selling it.

Torrential rains

Like the rest of the provinces in Luzon, Bulacan was not spared from Ondoy’s onslaught. According to local disaster officials, at least 38 people were killed in the province. Officials also said at least 2,835 families in Bulacan were affected by floods. The government placed Bulacan, nearby provinces, and Metro Manila under a state of calamity.

Drawing comparison with hurricane Katrina that battered the United States in 2005, Ondoy unleashed torrential rains in Metro Manila and provinces in Luzon.

As of 6 p.m, Sept. 27, at least 73 persons were killed and nearly 70,000 families were displaced due to the typhoon, according to the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) officials. NDCC officials also said there have been 337,216 persons affected in Metro Manila and nearby provinces. More than 9,600 families took shelter in 101 evacuation sites in affected areas.

Ondoy is the worst typhoon that hit the country in history, according to Dr. Nathaniel Cruz, director of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA). Ondoy, which officials say dumped the heaviest rainfall in Metro Manila in four decades, submerged hundreds of houses in Luzon and destroyed millions of properties.

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