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Flooding and volcanic activity

friday, august 31:

Myrna Urot is one of around a million people in the Philippines who have been affected by flooding caused by monsoon rains and Tropical Storm Haikui in August 2012.

She lives in Muntinlupa city, where at least 4,000 families had to leave their homes as floodwater reached as high as the second floor of the buildings.

As the schools were on holiday when the floods struck, the local authorities were able to use the buildings to set up 13 evacuation centres. Myrna, her family and neighbours gathered what they could carry and went to Cupang Elementary School. So many people were affected by the floods that the school quickly became full and evacuees spilled out onto the basketball court outside.

When the ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) arrived to assess the area, there were 1,500 people at the school including single mother of ten Myrna.

‘The sports court was only half-covered and conditions at the school were wet and very overcrowded,' said SRT member Arnold Kelly (NZ). 'The children were due to come back to school and the local authorities were keen to avoid disruption to education.

'The floodwaters remained waist deep and the families could not return to their homes. Officials from the Department of Social Welfare and Development said that it could be months before the floodwaters recede as the monsoon season continues.'

ShelterBox worked with the local authorities to find suitable sites to set up small camps with drinking water, toilets and electricity where possible.

Pre-positioned ShelterBoxes in a donated storage facility just 40 miles north of the affected areas meant that the team could respond quickly to the need they had found for emergency shelter.

When the boxes reached Cupang, volunteers from the Filipino Red Cross, the local police and families from the evacuation centre worked with SRTs to set up the tents.

Myrna walked along the row of tents looking for hers and grinned from ear to ear when she found her number. She proudly sat on her ShelterBox with her Certificate of Ownership.

‘The evacuation centre was so noisy, crowded and wet,' said Myrna. 'I am so happy to bring my children here to stay in my ShelterBox tent. Thank you so much.'

A total of 473 ShelterBoxes have been distributed to families in need in and around the capital Manila. The teams have returned home and the deployment is complete.

wednesday, august 29:

ShelterBox Response Teams (SRTs) have been in the Philippines over the past month delivering much needed aid to families whose homes were flooded by Tropical Storm Haikui.

Dams on nearby rivers broke and the monsoon storm poured 30 centimetres of rain on the capital Manila, the worst downpour it had seen in three years, causing floodwaters to rise and damage to infrastructure.

'It's like a water world,' said Benito Ramos, the head of the country's disaster response agency.

ShelterBox has been working in and around Manila providing emergency shelter and other non-food items to families in need, including towns around Lake Laguna.

Fionn McKee is a ShelterBox Operations Coordinator who has been helping coordinate ShelterBox's response in country and speaks about the deployment from Manila:

As always ShelterBox can't do its work unless its got trusted local partners to work with so we're really pleased to be working once again with All Hands to set the tents up quicker,' said Fionn. 'We worked with their volunteers in Mindanao in southern Philippines following Tropical Storm Sendong that hit in December 2011.

'We have also had fantastic assistance from the Philippines Navy and Marines with logistics as they have been transporting the aid from prepositioned stock in Filipino city Clark to the affected areas. As always the local Rotary network has been fantastic.'

wednesday, august 22:

Ernesto and Juanicia Di Joso had been living with their three teenage grandchildren in Santa Cruz on the Bay Laguna shoreline when Tropical Storm Haikui hit, bringing heavy rains and high winds. Their home was completely flooded. With no personal belongings, they had been staying in an overcrowded evacuation centre when they received a ShelterBox.

ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) member Owen Smith (AU) was part of the team that delivered their box:

'Ernesto is hoping to get a municipal grant to help him and his family build a new house on a small piece of land they own further away from the lake. The tent gives them the independence to move to their land and start again.'

'I think that it is foolish to continue living on the lakeshore since the recent floods,' said Ernesto. 'Thank you so very, very much for this gift.'

The interpreter, Del, who has been helping the SRT assess the need and distribute ShelterBoxes to families in need in other towns around Lake Laguna is a Rotarian and already knew Juanicia.

'It was just a coincidence that Del had been at school with Juanicia in grade two,' said Owen. 'They were so delighted to reunite and catch up after 54 years of not seeing each other.'

Ernesto and Juanicia are one of many families staying at the camp in Santa Cruz set up by Response Teams, who had invaluable assistance from local Rotarians, council staff and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Four-month pregnant Josephine and her husband Raymond Idean are also now living in a tent at Santa Cruz with their three children aged two, four and six.

'We are so happy to have the gift of a ShelterBox to move our young family into as our house is still under two metres of water,' said Josephine. 'We have been told that it will be November or later before the lake will drain enough for us to return to our home.'

With an uncertain future, ShelterBox has given the Idean family some dignity and privacy in the crowded school that is their evacuation centre.

The Philippines Navy, Emergency Medical Services, local Rotary Clubs and volunteers from the Asian College of Science and Technology have helped SRTs establish more camps in San Fernando, Sucat, Santa Rosa and Bay to help ease the congested evacuation centres and give families a place to live close to their homes.

'The biggest challenge has been sourcing suitable land close to the flooded communities because much of the flooding has taken place in dense urban areas,' noted Owen. 'It is not much use giving a family a new home if it removes them from their local community or takes them too far from their flooded homes; and of course we also need to enable sanitation, potable water, security and everything else to make a camp habitable for families.'

Another serious repercussion of the flooding is that many businesses are still underwater and unable to operate.

'So many of the evacuees have the double calamity of living and working in the affected areas so now they have flooded homes and no jobs,' commented Owen.

Response Teams continue working hard to deliver shelter and other lifesaving supplies to families affected by the floods to the south and north of the capital Manila.

wednesday, august 15:

The Philippines has been struck by another tropical storm, dumping more heavy rain on the flood-hit capital Manila and causing landslides in the mountainous north.

Tropical Storm Kai-Tak is the second typhoon in one week to hit the seventh most populated Asian country, bringing powerful winds and up to 35 millimetres of rain an hour over the northeast of the main island of Luzon.

'We have been experiencing really heavy rains since last night, and our rescuers have evacuated some residents after neck-deep flooding was reported,' Melchito Castro, the civil defence chief in the northern Ilocos region, told news agency Agence France-Press on Wednesday.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been trying to recover from the destructive monsoon weather that has been slamming the nation over the past few weeks, causing widespread devastation to buildings, homes and crops.

Three ShelterBox Response Teams (SRTs) have been assessing the need for emergency shelter and other non-food items in the urban and rural devastated areas.

San Fernando in Pampanga Province is the worst hit area to the north of Manila, according to SRT member Abner Tayco (PH) who has been part of the team assessing the need in rural regions with Ross MacKenzie (NZ).

'Many families in San Fernando have been forced from their homes as many surrounding villages are underwater' said Abner. 'There is also a lot of silt that will leave the villages submerged for longer unless it is rapidly unclogged.'

SRT members Peter Pearce (AU) and Sonny Ongkiko (PH) have been assessing the need in Manila and areas to the south of the capital, where 500 millimetres of water dumped in two days, the same amount that would normally fall in six storms. They have found a need in the provinces of Laguna, Rizal and Marikina that surround Laguna Lake.

'The majority of schools and gyms around this region have become over-crowded evacuation centres and some schools are under four feet of water,' said Peter. 'The lake has grown by 15-20 metres and the floodway control cannot accommodate the volume of water or debris that will damage more villages.'

Media reports say that it could take months to drain the overflowing lakes and rivers, which will in turn leave families homeless for months.

The country's Navy is on standby with its trucks ready to transport ShelterBoxes to the devastated areas from those prepositioned in the Filipino city of Clark. Local Rotarians have also offered their warehouses to store boxes while they are distributed to families in need.

'Our country averages 20 typhoons annually. We are only in August and the fifth typhoon has already brought unusually high levels of rain this early on,' said Sonny. 'We are doing our best to speed up the assessment and deliver emergency aid to those who have lost everything.'

Another SRT has arrived in the Southeast Asian country to assess the need in the north, following Tropical Storm Kai-Tak.

friday, august 10:

The Philippines capital Manila and the surrounding area is experiencing its worst floods since 2009, due to unusually heavy monsoon rainfall triggered by tropical storm Haikui.

Reports say that more than half the amount of rain normally seen in August has fallen in the capital in 24 hours, resulting in over 270,000 people being forced from their homes due to the exceptionally high floodwaters.

Benito Ramos is the head of the country's disaster response agency and said that at least 60% of the city was underwater:

'We're still concerned about the situation in the coastal areas as it was difficult to distinguish the sea from the floodwaters.'

Sonny Ongkiko (PH) and Abner Tayco (PH) are two ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) members based in Manila who have been assessing the need for emergency shelter in the urban area.

They will be joined by SRT members Peter Pearce (AU) and Ross MacKenzie (NZ) in the next couple of days to form two SRTs; one team will continue needs assessments in Manila and the other will assess need in the nearby rural areas.

'Having in-country SRT volunteers has enabled us to monitor the flooding in the Philippines and respond immediately to the disaster,' said ShelterBox Operations Manager, Ross Preston.

'We are in a good position to respond effectively and quickly with Sonny's and Abner's local knowledge and contacts, as well as the ShelterBoxes we have prepositioned in the Filipino city Clark.'

The Philippines is prone to storms that annually cause widespread damage and displacement, but up until now, the worst to hit was three years ago in September when Typhoon Ketsana struck Manila.

wednesday, august 8:

Tropical storm Haikui has caused unusually heavy rain in the Philippines capital Manila and surrounding rural areas. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their flood-hit homes. ShelterBox's in-country ShelterBox Response Team members Sonny Ongkiko (PH) and Abner Tayco (PH) are in Manila and will be joined by Peter Pearce (AU) and Ross MacKenzie (NZ) on Saturday. They will form two teams, one urban and one rural, to carry out needs assessments. If needed prepositioned stock will be used from Filipino city Clark to enable quickest response.