Tropical Storm Gener (Saola), which hit the country towards the end of July, certainly brought back the ghosts of typhoons past, such as typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009, and Sendong late last year. But it was the torrential rains brought in by the southwest monsoon (also called “Habagat”) following Tropical Storm Gener that had us actually relive the Ondoy nightmare last week. This nameless monsoon put 50% of Manila underwater and (according to recent news updates) claimed at least 100 lives and has affected or displaced more than 500,000 families, which definitely puts one in mind of typhoon Ondoy.
But how can a rather common annual monsoon rain compare to the notoriety of Typhoon Ondoy? How is it possible that in some aspects, according to government officials and weather experts, the devastation caused by this nameless monsoon is even worse than that caused by the epic floods of Ondoy?
What caught us off guard in 2009 was the amount of rainfall Ondoy dropped on us over a 24-hour period, which we were totally unprepared for. Hence, the massive, relentless flooding. The accumulated rainfall recorded for Typhoon Ondoy in 24 hours was 455mm. The monsoon last week brought in accumulated rainfall of 687mm over a 48-hour period. The difference was that, although Typhoon Ondoy was worse in terms of volume per hour, it didn’t last as long as last week’s monsoon did. The floods we were left to deal with by Ondoy was only the result of a day’s downpour, while this nameless monsoon continued to blast us from August 6 to 8, and to this day, a huge part of Manila is still submerged in flood.
I am not a weather expert and I’m certain that there are many other factors that contribute to this recurring problem with Philippine floods. My intention for writing this post is not to jump on the blame wagon but merely to join hundreds of other kababayans who are desperately trying to point out the obvious while screaming “Enough!”. The obvious? Well, let’s see … right off the bat? … that we need a better waste management system, that we need a more proactive disaster prevention and protection systems in place, better and more up-to-date drainage and sewage system, a quicker, more efficient disaster response and relief coordination, a more intelligent and analytical execution of “preventive measures” being taken (such as releasing water from the dams), and perhaps a nationwide overhaul of housing infrastructure just to name a few. Otherwise, these Philippine floods brought about by storms and typhoons would continue to be a recurring widespread danger to our society and to our lives unless we learn the lessons Mother Nature has been so vehemently trying to teach us for years now.
Until the government decides to really put the needs of the people first when it comes to protecting us and preventing these tragedies from happening in the first place, we have no choice but to feel abandoned to our own devices to ensure the safety of ourselves and our loved ones. That is why, based on my own research and what I’ve heard from other people, I bring to y’all some tips gathered from DoSomething.org and American Red Cross to help you better prepare and equip yourselves to proactively prevent tragedies in your families that happen as a result of Philippine typhoons and floods:
Know What to Expect
- If it has been raining hard for several hours, or steadily raining for several days, be alert to the possibility of a flood.
- Listen to local radio or TV stations for flood updates.
When a Flood Warning is Raised
- Switch off and raise your power plugs and sockets, and other electronic appliances too heavy to be carried to a higher floor, if they are in areas of your home that may be reached by the flood.
- If possible, move your furniture and valuables to higher floors of your home.
- Fill your car’s gas tank, in case an evacuation notice is issued.
- Listen to local radio and TV stations for updates and advice. If told to evacuate, heed promptly.
When a Flash Flood Warning is Raised
- Be alert to signs of flash flooding and be ready to evacuate on a moment’s notice.
- If you think it has already started, evacuate immediately. You may have only seconds to escape. Act quickly!
- Move to higher ground away from rivers, streams, creeks, and storm drains. Do not attempt to drive around barricades — they are there for your safety.
- If your car stalls in rapidly rising waters, abandon it immediately and climb to higher ground.
- Familiarize yourself with the different typhoon and flood warning signals.
- Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water is enough to make you lose your footing. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground and depth of the water as you move forward.
- Do not drive into flooded areas. If flood waters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground if you can do so safely. You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away.
Here are some numbers to (practically and literally) live by. I highly recommend that you download this information, print it out and keep a copy in your car, in your wallet, on your fridge, anywhere that it would be easily accessible. Give each of your family members a copy too. Keep in mind, there is no such thing as being “too prepared” especially when it comes to protecting yourself from all sorts of danger associated with something so common in the Philippines as those of Philippine floods.
- National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) – (02) 911-1406/(02) 912-2665/(02) 912-5668
- Philippine Red Cross - 143/(02) 911-1876
- Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) – (02) 433-8526
- Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) – 7890/(918) 884-8484
- Philippine National Police (PNP) Hotline Patrol – 117 or send TXT PNP to 2920
- Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) – (02) 729-5166/(02) 410-6254/(02) 431-8859/(02) 407-1230
- Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) – 136
- Department Works and Highways (DPWH) – (02) 304-3713
- North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) – (02) 3-5000/(02) 580-8910
- South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) – (908) 880-7539
- Skyway – (02) 776-7777/(915) 625-6231/(939) 500-6910
- Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) – (920) 96-SCTEX (72839)
Don’t forget your pets either! They cannot cry out for help but they are depending on us to account for their needs as a part of our emergency and/or evacuation planning. If your pets are in need of rescue, please contact PETA at (02) 817-5292 or PAWS at (02) 475-1688.
Help The Victims of Philippine Floods
Donating in Cash
Here are some reputable establishments that I can recommend through which you may send your cash donations:
- Philippine Red Cross
- ABS-CBN Sagip Kapamilya Foundation, Inc.
- GMA Network Kapuso Foundation
- All McDonalds branches in Metro Manila
- Christ’s Commission Fellowship (St. Francis Square)
- Christ’s Commission Fellowship (Alabang)
- Christ’s Commission Fellowship (Makati)
Donating in Kind
• bottled water
• cooked rice
• easy-open canned goods
• instant noodles in cup
• medicines and first-aid items (paracetamol, immodium, betadine, isopropyl alcohol, skin antibiotic ointments, etc.)
• clothes, disposable underwear
• sleeping mats, pillows
• reusable dinnerware (plates, bowls, cups and saucers) and eating utensils (spoons and forks)
• bath and face towels
• water containers
• toiletries and grooming supplies (bath soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, hair comb, cotton balls, Q-tips, feminine wash)
• sanitary napkins, disposable diapers
• bathroom tissue
• wet wipes
• rubber slippers or flip flops
• rain gear (umbrellas, rain coats)
Hoping For The Best, Preparing For The Worst
Now that there is another storm coming (Tropical Storm Helen), we ought to remain courageous, alert, and cautious. However, this is not the time to lose hope and to allow ourselves to be defeated by ignorance or helplessness. Our chance for survival depends on how well we equip ourselves by educating ourselves, staying informed and most importantly, by holding on tightly to our faith in the Lord — perpetually praying for His mercy and protection upon our families and our entire country.
Stay safe and God bless you, guys!
[Image and information sources: GulfNews.com, PhilippineEmbassy-USA.org, DoSomething.org, 1224cargo.com]
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