Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Flood-hit Mindanao battles water lilies

IRIN: Armed with machetes and cutting equipment, and in a bid to prevent flooding in and around the Philippine city of Cotabato on Mindanao island, hundreds of troops and civilians cleared tons of water lilies from the Rio Grande river on 18-19 June. The innocuous-looking plants are the prime culprits of recent flooding in and around this city of 400,000, according to local officials.

“This is the worst I have ever seen it,” Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, who chairs the Presidential Task Force on the Mindanao River Basin, told IRIN. “This happened two years ago, but never like this.” Dislodged by weeks of heavy rain in their natural habitat, the plants had at one point blocked up to 2km of the river, the longest in Mindanao and the second largest in the Philippines, he said.

As of 20 June, some 25,000 families in the city had been affected. Of these 8,000 were staying in temporary shelters, mostly schools, with some 17,000 remaining at home, local authorities said. Heavy rain in eastern Mindanao in recent weeks caused the river to burst its banks, leaving parts of 33 of Cotabato City’s 37 low-lying villages inundated.

Thousands of children were forced out of school, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported, as water levels in some parts of the city rose to 0.7 metres. Meanwhile, in nearby Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces, the government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) reported another 30,000 families affected, many of whom remained in their homes, unwilling to abandon their possessions: In one house IRIN visited some family members were perched on a table watching TV as knee-deep water swirled below them….

No comments: