The Philippines Suffers Devastating Flooding

An aerial view of the Marikina district east of Manila and the swollen Marikina river that flooded many riverside communities. Photo: NDRRMC
Years of haphazard urban planning, combined with worsening weather events, are bringing death and destruction to the Philippines more often. 

The country of 100 million people has seen huge slum areas multiply, while riverside communities and upscale city developments have grown across an archipelago battered by about 20 storms annually, some of them deadly.

This week powerful winds, swept in by the southwest monsoon acting in concert with a huge storm to the east of the Philippines, brought a deluge that submerged most of the capital, Manila, and flooded the surrounding provinces.

Urban planners have long warned that such a scenario was possible. Schools closed and work was suspended for days, families were trapped on rooftops, and health, rescue and emergency services were stretched to their limits. Dams spilled over, triggering a chain reaction of overflowing rivers and streams, and forcing hundreds of thousands to find safety wherever they could. As many as 45 people were killed and the damage is still being tallied.

This week's flooding has been compared to the fury of tropical storm Ketsana, which drenched Manila in 2009, killing over 450 people and forcing the government to acknowledge the need to relocate many communities to safer areas. That promise is yet to be fulfilled because of political sensitivities and the massive amount of resources needed, but in the meantime, experts say the Philippines remains highly vulnerable.