Philippines begins typhoon clean-up

People returning to their homes as Mirinae, which caused 14 deaths, weakens into storm.

Miriniae weakened on Sunday, allowing thousands of people to return home from evacuation centres [AFP]
Miriniae weakened on Sunday, allowing thousands of people to return home from evacuation centres [AFP]

Al Jazeera’s Divya Gopalan, reporting from Manila, said: “It has been quite a disruptive weekend here, although the weather has now cleared and the government is still counting the cost of this storm and the previous storms.

“The government is also monitoring a low-pressure area because there seems to be another typhoon on the way, so the worst may not be over yet”.

Repair efforts

Efforts were being made to repair four bridges that collapsed in urban areas south of Manila, while power was slowly being restored to most of the 22 towns that were blacked out at the height of the typhoon, the national unit of the Red Cross said.

“We have been told that power in most areas has been restored and in terms of flooding, the waters receded within hours,” Gwen Pang, the Philippine Red Cross secretary-general, told the AFP news agency.

She said a pre-emptive evacuation that resulted in the transfer of about 115,000 people in the typhoon’s direct path to safer ground, had meant fewer casualties compared with two recent deadly storms.

“People were more prepared and more or less knew what to do … they did not wait until it was too late to evacuate”

Gwen Pang,
Philippine Red Cross

The typhoon, with winds of up to 185km an hour, was the fourth major storm to hit Luzon, the Philippines’ main island, in just five weeks.

Tropical Storm Ketsana, which caused massive flooding on September 26, and Typhoon Parma, which hit a week later, together killed more than 1,100 people.

“People were more prepared and more or less knew what to do,” Pang said.

“People did not wait until it was too late to evacuate and were quickly moved away from harm’s way to safer ground.”

Pang said most of the more than 5,000 people who had moved into temporary shelters had begun trickling back to their homes as the weather cleared on Sunday.

However, relief and rehabilitation efforts will continue for the 87,000 people still packed into evacuation centres whose homes were destroyed by Ketsana and Parma, she said.

“We are moving into the early recovery stage, looking at shelter requirements as well as the medical concerns of these people,” Pang said.

Disaster conscious

A spokesman for Gloria Arroyo, the Philippine president, said the government was grateful that Mirinae had left the country as quickly as it came.

“We thank our people for co-operating and by being more disaster conscious,” Cerge Remonde said.

While the Philippines is used to an average of 20 typhoons a year, the recent deadly storms had tested its disaster response plans to the limit, forcing it to seek international help.

The storms also exposed the government’s poor urban planning that has allowed shanty towns to rise beside floodways and riverbanks.

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Saturday, Valerie Lewin from the Oxfam aid group said: “The government has been quite well prepared [having learned from previous typhoons. There has been a lot of pre-emptive evacuation.

“[However], a lot of people went back to the evacuation centre, and we are concerned about the hygiene of the centre at the moment.”

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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