The torrential and prolonged rains affecting the northern Philippines have provoked new destruction and tragedy. On October 8, the province of Benguet was affected by hundreds of landslides, causing around 180 deaths. The release of the water from a dam which had reached its capacity, flooded between 60 percent and 80 percent of Pangasinan province. Thirty towns were flooded according to the authorities and 50,000 people had to leave their homes.
Two Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) mobile teams have been providing assistance in the far north of Luzon Island. Another team is currently in the Pangasigan province providing medical care and relief materials to the most vulnerable people around the town of Rosales where people have yet to receive any help.
“When our team got to Rosales on Friday, there was literally a river running through town,” said Voitek Asztabski, MSF’s emergency coordinator. “Nearly 100 percent of the houses have been affected and the living conditions in the evacuation centres are dire. People need food and hygiene materials. Our teams are working around the clock, but the needs are huge and we are desperate to see other agencies joining the effort here.”
In Manila and its surroundings, more MSF teams are still working to provide medical care to the most vulnerable people affected by tropical storm Ketsana, which struck the Philippines two weeks ago affecting 3.9 million people and forcing 500,000 to flee their houses.
The first priority is to provide medical care to people living in flooded areas of Metro Manila, Laguna, Rizal, and Pagasinan where the healthcare system is currently disrupted. MSF teams are regularly assessing hygiene conditions in the overcrowded evacuation centres in order to detect and respond to potential outbreaks of disease.
Two weeks after Ketsana hit the central region of Luzon Island, there are still pockets of people living in poor and flooded areas, in particular along the river banks in Manila who have not been reached by the relief effort.