By Mary Joy Elvarosa, IFRC
Heavy rains and flooding caused by the southwest monsoon combined with a low-pressure weather front, forced over 260,000 people to flee their homes in the Philippines last weekend August 13-14.
The intense monsoon rains affected six regions of the country, mostly in Luzon, triggering flooding as well as landslides in some parts of Rizal province and Northern Luzon.
Prior to the disaster, over 100 Philippine Red Cross (PRC) emergency response teams, chapter staff, community health volunteers and Red Cross volunteers were mobilized in high risk areas. They have since served hot meals to over 2,000 people displaced by the floods and also provided psychosocial support and other help to families in the affected regions.
Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon assured the public that the Red Cross would remain ‘on alert and ready for any eventuality until the bad weather is over.’
Days after the torrential rains, close to 18,000 people remain housed in 77 designated evacuation centres across the country. On August 17, Dagupan, a city 200 km north of Manila declared a state of calamity, following a city-wide flooding.
According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), many of the low-lying areas in the provinces of Central Luzon experienced flooding measuring up to six feet.
In anticipation of the monsoon season, the Philippine Red Cross Operation Center (OpCen) in Manila had been on alert-mode since July, monitoring weather patterns and maintaining constant communication with local chapters in hazard prone regions of the country.
The Red Cross also swung into action providing emergency relief and first aid after two freak tornadoes swept across parts of Manila and Bulacan province on August 14th and 17th, causing injuries and damaging over 100 houses and commercial establishments. The Philippine Red Cross warehouse located in Port Area, Manila also sustained minor damage.
According to PAGASA, the national meteorological service, the tornadoes, which are unusual in the Philippines, resulted from the severe thunderstorms over the course of the week and are not linked to the onset of La Niña, which is projected to bring additional rainfall to the country over the coming months. Weather systems will continue to affect the country for the month of August, and two to four tropical cyclones may still develop over the monsoon season.
The Philippine Red Cross with the support of our Red Cross Red Crescent Movement partners, has been gearing up its contingency plans since June in preparation for the onset of La Niña.