Sunday, December 18, 2011

Floods in the Philipines Underscore the Deadly Toll from Climate Change

The deadly floods and landslides in the Philippines are but the latest example of the catastrophic impacts of extreme weather from climate change. There are almost one thousand people missing after flash floods and landslides swept houses into rivers and out to sea, killing more than 650 people in the southern Mindanao region on Friday December 16 and Saturday December 17.

The cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan on Mindanao Island were worst hit when Typhoon Washi slammed ashore, sending torrents of water and mud that leveled villages. This is very unusual weather for the region, which is not usually subject to typhoons.

Flash floods washed away entire houses with families inside in dozens of coastal villages around Cagayan de Oro and Iligan. "This is the first time this has happened in our city," Vicente Emano, mayor of Cagayan de Oro, said in a radio interview.

Typhoons normally strike the central Visayas region and the south and east of Luzon, the main island in the north. Officials and residents did not expect such a huge volume of water cascading down mountains into river systems because the area was not in the typhoon belt.

Local officials are being inundated with dead bodies which threaten to provoke an outbreak of disease."Local mortuaries are no longer accepting cadavers and they are even asking people to bury the dead at once because there are too many bodies even in hallways," Brigadier General Roland Amarille, head of an army task force in Iligan said.

As is often the case some of the poorest areas were hardest hit. Most of the fatalities were from a slum area on an island sandwiched by two rivers in Iligan. "About 70% of the houses on the island were washed into the sea," Amarille said.

Gwendolyn Pang, secretary general of the The Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) said, "This poses challenges to us … We need to educate people with this kind of change in climate. The volume of rainfall for one month fell in just one day."

© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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