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Poor hardest hit in Philippine floods
The poor have been hardest hit in recent floods which have lashed the Philippines, as Liam Cochrane reports.

The poor have been hardest hit in recent floods which have lashed the Philippines.

In some cases they have been left to fend for themselves, as Liam Cochrane reports.
Transcript
LIAM COCHRANE, REPORTER: Parts of Manila are already under water and yet it keeps raining.

In the capital 300,000 people are still in evacuation centres from last week's flooding and tropical Storm Kai tak has dumped more water across the Philippines main island of Luzon.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN (Translation): When the rain started pouring it was very strong and the water from the sea flowed over and went into our houses.

The roofing was destroyed. The rescuers asked us to evacuate the place and they brought us here.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN (Translation): A barge went through our house and destroyed everything. When there are floods itís so hard for us because we're not able to work. Our house is destroyed and my son is in hospital.

GWENDOLYN PANG, SECRETARY GENERAL, PHILIPPINES NATIONAL RED CROSS: The floods this time is very devastating for the people, especially those who were hit even before. They have not coped yet 100 per cent and they were hit again. There were many people that were displaced, many people lost almost everything. Even in metro Manila a lot of people are suffering.


(Footage of deep flood waters)

LIAM COCHRANE: The area's worst hit by tropical Storm Kai tak are in the north, with water neck deep in places.

(Footage of landslide below a road)

Landslides have cut off some highways and two people were buried alive in a gold mine.

In Manila it is those who start with less who are affected more.

GWENDOLYN PANG: The poor, they become poorer because they lost almost everything. They weren't able to cope. They werenít able to regain their economic status and now another disaster, you know, hits us again.

LIAM COCHRANE: The Philippines gets an average of 20 tropical storms each year, and low lying Manila is poorly equipped to handle the rain.

Geoscience Australia has spent years helping the Philippine government with disaster modelling.

DR ALANNA SIMPSON, GEOSCIENCE AUSTRALIA: It effectively forms a flood traffic jam in Manila. So the waterís coming down very fast from the hills and then slows down and becomes a bottleneck in the city of Manila.

LIAM COCHRANE: The rapid urbanisation of metro Manila is a big part of the problem.

(Footage of rubbish floating on the flood waters)

In the recent floods plastic bags and other rubbish repeatedly jammed the propellers of pumping stations within the city's drainage system.

(Footage of slum areas)

Slum areas built on river banks also slow down drainage when floods do hit and put the city's poorest residents right in the path of rushing water.

Better land use is one aspect of an $8 billion master plan proposed by the Philippine government for the next 23 years. Some of the urgent projects include clearing clog the waterways in Manila and upgrading the pumping stations that help water throw through canals and drains. The plan also suggests repairing several levees across the country.

GWENDOLYN PANG: The plan seems to be very good but we need to have political will to implement the plan.

LIAM COCHRANE: Getting into the detail of natural disaster planning has been helped by precise aerial maps donated by Australia.

DR ALANNA SIMPSON: (pointing to map on screen) On this one here you will actually be able to see the water move. Here you can see the water will travel down a street.

LIAM COCHRANE: One controversial proposal from urban planner Felino Palafox is to build a huge flood weigh to drain Laguna de Bay Lake and resettle thousands of people.

DR ALANNA SIMPSON: That lake is almost at sea level. So all of the rivers that flow through Manila flow into that lake and then, because itís almost at sea level, the water then drains from that lake very, very, very slowly. And so that's one of the very large issues around flooding in Manila that will very difficult for the Philippines government to mitigate for.

LIAM COCHRANE: The government says the flood way concept would be too costly and too disruptive to the densely populated suburbs it would pass through. But even without it, the government's master plan suggests resettling more than 700,000 people.

And that's something the Red Cross says must be carefully managed.

GWENDOLYN PANG: Perhaps we can give more opportunities for people in the provinces because we have to move some of the commercial centres as well to other different parts of the country. So this will be very good, this will be beneficial for all. But this cannot be done only by government. Everybody must take their responsibility or role in implementing this.

LIAM COCHRANE: The master plan still needs final approval from president Benigno Aquino. But for the residents of Manila and much of the northern Philippines, the floods are a much more immediate concern.
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