As floodwaters slowly recede across the central plains of Luzon island, the death toll keeps rising.
As floodwaters slowly recede across the central plains of Luzon island, the death toll keeps rising. It has been put officially at more than 530, with more reports filtering in all the time from remote areas. The government has launched a massive relief and health campaign throughout the country, including house-to-house inoculation programmes aimed at combatting outbreaks of typhoid and gastro-enteritis.
As the waters have begun receding following the worst floods of the century, trains are speeding out of Manila to the worst hit areas, carrying food, medical supplies and other essential goods. But for some small towns and villages, it may not be enough. One such is Paombong, in Central Luzon.
Paombong has 20,000 inhabitants--two-thirds of them children. Their main livelihood is rice, cultivated in small farms in a six-mile (10-kilometre) radius of the town. When four-foot (1 1/2 meter) flood waters hit Paombong a month ago the rice crop was totally destroyed. And the flooding was so severe that the effects of the damage will also extend to the autumn crops. The effect is said to be "catastrophic".
Mayor Jose Dela Cruz has only been in office six months. His people are pious Roman Catholics and desperately poor--and, in spite of all his efforts, he can do little to help them. His calls for help to neighbouring towns and villages have been futile as they too are in equal straights. Now, some food and supplies have reached them from Manila, but little or nothing can be done to salvage the economy of the area except start again from scratch with the rice crops.