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Typhoon ripple effect deals poor double whammy

For thousands of Filipinos with nowhere to rebuild, the hardship of the storm has only just begun.

These children pick through the rubble of what remained of their homes in a slum community called Agno in Quezon City, one of the areas devastated by typhoon Ketsana more than a week ago. (Carlos H. Conde/GlobalPost)

MANILA, Philippines — These days, Danilo Fabre spends his time asking friends and neighbors where to look for cheap wood. His home, a hovel right beside a creek in a district called West Kamias, in Quezon City, was completely demolished by typhoon Ketsana, which struck the Philippines on Sept. 26, inundating nearly all of the capital of Manila.

With their homes gone and with his community — a shantytown right beside the creek — still struggling to put their lives back together after the disaster, Fabre can be found on most days either lining up for relief goods from government and charity organizations or sitting by the curb, chatting with friends, exchanging tales of those harrowing days of deluge.

“I pity my youngest,” Fabre, 46, said in an interview. “She’s still so small and now we have nothing, not even milk to feed her.” The baby, at barely one year old, is the youngest among his five children.

All across Metro Manila, the region composed of 17 towns and cities that was the hardest hit by Ketsana, similar tales of woe now ring familiar among the poor.

There’s Danny Regenio, a 45-year-old car painter with five children whose home in Tatalon, another poor district also in Quezon City, was flooded and razed by a raging fire at the same time. “It was just the worst thing,” he said, recalling how he and his neighbors clambered up to their roofs in order to evade the flood and the fire.

There are Fabre’s neighbors who lived in huts beneath a bridge and who are now homeless. Although some huts remain nearby, it wasn’t the same as it used to be, said Fabre. “We were poor but we were all together and we were happy,” he said. Now, even the nightly wailing of the videoke bar nearby is gone. In Pasig City, another Metro Manila city, mothers complained about not being able to send their sick children to the public hospitals, which are still closed because of the flood. When another typhoon, Parma, struck the northern Philippines over the weekend, sending rains on Metro Manila, residents of a district beside the Pasig River panicked, thinking that another flooding was on the way. Thankfully, Parma was not as devastating as many had feared, though the rain brought ankle-deep water to the homes of many of the poor in many sections of the city.

As in the past, what Ketsana underscored is the extreme vulnerability of poor Filipinos to calamities. According to the National Disaster Coordinating Council, the typhoon affected 629,466 families or 3,084,997 individuals. According to the government, Ketsana killed 288 people while 18 died due to Parma.

Today, more than a week since it wrought havoc by dumping an unprecedented amount of rain on Manila and its environs, thousands of Filipinos have not been able to even remove the trash and debris that accumulated around them, exposing them even more to diseases and illnesses.