Page last updated at 11:43 GMT, Tuesday, 29 September 2009 12:43 UK

Struggle to cope after Philippine flood

Families wait by coffins in Quezon City, 29/09
For some families mourning has begun, but many people are still missing

By Alastair Leithead
BBC News, Quezon City

Half the covered basketball court in Bagong Silangan has been converted into a mortuary, the other half is sleeping space for some of the hundreds of people left homeless by typhoon Ketsana.

This little community in Quezon City - a suburb of Manila - was hit more badly than most by the flooding.

More than a dozen white coffins have been laid out in neat rows, with family members sitting next to the deceased, candles burning and a cross hastily erected as friends and neighbours pay their respects.

Soldiers load aid bags in Quezon city, 28/09
Aid is coming, but some fear it may not be enough

Peter Santina, 33, sits by one of the small coffins. He had been working selling rice in the market when the storm struck.

He says his wife Thelma, who is eight months pregnant, was washing clothes outside the house when the water level suddenly began to rise.

She and the three children scrambled on to the roof, but as they hung on the house was ripped away from underneath them by the flood and they were dragged under.

Their five-year-old daughter Mary Ann did not make it to the surface. She drowned and her body was found a day later, 2.5km (1.5 miles) away.

"I'm not blaming anyone for the death of my daughter - it's just a terrible accident," Peter says as he and his family sit beside her small coffin.

Meagre aid

Hundreds of homes near the river were swept away and those that were not destroyed were swamped by mud.

Queues of people spent the day lining up waiting for what little aid there was available in this area to be handed out.


Floods leave trail of chaos

In one centre small plastic bags containing just a few clothes were being given out and at another, run by a church group, those identified as being most in need were given a few tins of food and bottles of water.

The government said up to 380,000 people had been taken to evacuation centres as their homes had been so badly damaged.

Some people have been returning to their homes to try to clear up the thick mud, but tens of thousands are dependent on handouts.

The most needy families have been given small yellow pieces of paper to swap for food and clothes parcels.

We're finding it really difficult to find clean water, food, even the hygiene materials that are needed
Stephanie Sison
Save the Children

At one centre a small boy tried to jam his foot into a pair of shoes, but they were just too tight - a cheer went up as another man found a pair that fitted.

Grace Esteban from the Vincentian Social Ministry - a religious aid group - has been at a distribution centre for three days.

"We're giving relief goods - food, biscuits, rice, potable water and clothes," she says.

"Right now we have a target of 349 families - these are those identified as being adversely hit in this area.

"Many of these families have lost their houses and a number of them have also lost loved ones. We're trying to reach out to other areas which have not been reached yet by the government and other aid groups."

Palace opened

International aid agencies and the government are struggling to cope with the size of the task in hand.

Stephanie Sison from Save the Children was heading out with vanloads of soap and hygienic supplies.

"All the aid agencies and the government are overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the problem and the logistics in terms of getting to the people who are affected. A lot of help is still needed," she said.

"We're finding it really difficult to find clean water, food, even the hygiene materials that are needed.

"There should be enough in Manila but for some reason we have been finding it hard to mobilise and it has been difficult to pinpoint and prioritise who needs help the most."

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