Philippines brace for tropical storm after devastating monsoon (VIDEO, PHOTOS)
Tropical depression “Helen” is currently gaining speed in the Pacific, churning at a speed of 34 miles per hour. The state-run weather bureau says it will develop into a tropical storm.
It’s expected to hit the northern part of the country – an area that still remains largely under water from last week’s relentless rains.
Nearly half a million residents are already being housed in evacuation centers after losing their homes in the intense flooding. Others are struggling by living in partly submerged homes.
“These are the people we are most worried about. We have not fully recovered, and here comes another storm,” Civil Defense Chief Benito Ramos told AFP.
Two weeks of unyielding rain poured down on the Philippines last week, covering 80 per cent of Manila.
Although the capital is expected to avoid the worst of Tropical Storm Helen, it’s not completely in the clear. The area is still expected to be pounded by heavy downpours.
"The ground is already wet and saturated, and we could have landslides and flash floods," Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo, who oversees the weather bureau, told reporters.
The government has admitted to being overwhelmed by the scale of the relief effort, with access to toilets at evacuation centers and getting relief goods to the homeless proving to be a major problem.
"I hope to God this new storm doesn't happen," said Fe Bermejo, a 64-year-old grandmother from Valenzuela – one of the hardest hit coastal districts.
Bernmejo was speaking to reporters while standing in a line for relief goods from the Red Cross. But the government and charitable organizations can’t seem to provide relief goods quickly enough to the hundreds of thousands of victims throughout the country.
People use pedicabs to cross floodwaters in a street in Valenzuela, on the outskirt of Manila on August 13, 2012 (AFP Photo / Nicolas Asfouri)
It’s something Rosie Flores, 52, understands firsthand. She and her family arrived at a small Catholic church in Paombong on the first day of the floods, but has only received one grocery bag of food relief and two small bottles of drinking water.
However, the food shortage is just one of the many problems Flores is struggling to overcome since being displaced by the monsoon.
She and her family are sharing the church with 30 other evacuees – and the coffin of a woman who died in the flooding.
But Flores isn’t the only victim sharing a living space with the dead.
Other victims are sleeping on top of tombs, in an effort to keep their heads above water.
Teresa Concepcion and her family have set up camp in a Catholic cemetery in the town of Calumpit.
It was an unconventional – yet resourceful – decision. Some of the larger tombs have roofs which provide a dry spot, even in the rain.
"We believe in ghosts, but they have not troubled us. Maybe they took pity on us and allowed us to stay," the 34-year-old said.
Young women wade in floodwaters in a street in Valenzuela (AFP Photo / Nicolas Asfouri)
A street food vendor prepares a sandwich for a boy standing on a chair above floodwaters in a street in Valenzuela (AFP Photo / Nicolas Asfouri)
A girl rides a bicycle to cross floodwaters in a street in Valenzuela (AFP Photo / Nicolas Asfouri)
Flood affected people queue to get food relief at a church distributed by the Red Cross in Valenzuela (AFP Photo / Nicolas Asfouri)
Ramoncito Campo kisses his wife Hernelie Ruazol Campo on a flooded street during a southwest monsoon that battered Manila (Reuters / Courtesy of Ramoncito Campo / Handout)
Residents make their way through a subdivision in the flooded province of Catmon, Malabon (Reuters / John Javellana)
Residents make their way through their subdivision using a makeshift raft in the flooded province of Catmon, Malabon (Reuters / John Javellana)
Residents use an improvised raft, made of styrofoam, to cross floodwaters at Dampalit town in Malabon city, north of Manila (Reuters / Romeo Ranoco)