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Philippines struggles to help millions of flood victims

Flooding in the Philippines from monsoon rain has affected millions of people in Manila and throughout Luzon. The emergency services are struggling to cope with the massive numbers of people seeking disaster relief.

Philippine authorities on Thursday made an appeal for help in containing the fallout from heavy monsoon rains, as the country's emergency workers struggled to deliver relief to some two million people affected by the flooding.

The capital city, Manila, has received two months' worth of rain in the past 48 hours, leaving much of the 12-million-person metropolis under water. Although the neck-deep flood waters began to recede down to knee level on Thursday, the residents of poorer districts remained vulnerable.

In the riverside district of Marikina, the site of massive squatter communities, residents returned to their homes on Wednesday only to be evacuated after another flood hit just hours later.

"Last night, many came back, but when the alarm rang at 3:00 a.m. they had to evacuate again," said Colonel Perfecto Penaredondo, chief military aide at the civil defense office.

Emergency services overwhelmed

Emergency workers struggled to assist the victims of the flooding, as hundreds of thousands fled to evacuation centers in search of shelter, food, water and medicine. The government's disaster management council reported that the number of people seeking shelter in the centers rose to 293,000 on Thursday, up from 150,000 on Wednesday.

Rescuers evacuate residents along a flooded street in Marikina city, Metro Manila August 9, 2012. Large parts of Manila were still swamped in floods on Thursday, after continuous rains pounded the capital overnight. REUTERS/Tim Chong (PHILIPPINES - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Emergency services have been overwhelmed by the demand for assistance

At least 36 people have been killed in Manila and 15 in the northern reaches of the main island of Luzon.

"We are repacking a lot of relief items, we need more help and are asking for more volunteers," Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman told the news agency AFP.

"Most local government units do a community kitchen, but the volume of evacuees is so big that they have been overwhelmed," Corazon added. "We are also appealing for more medicines, blankets, mats and, more importantly, dry clothes."

Government assurances

Despite reports that emergency services were not coping with the demand for assistance, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III tried to reassure residents of the hard-hit Marikina district that they could rely on government help.

"You can be assured that we will not abandon you," Aquino said. "The government is well prepared and we still have enough funds to help everyone."

Aquino went on to say that the Philippines was studying ways to reduce the damage from monsoon rains and typhoons. The archipelago nation faces 20 major typhoons or storms each rainy season, which are often deadly.

"We are talking about relocation…and there is also infrastructure that we need," the president told residents of Caloocan City, another affected suburb.

"But it will take us years for us to build infrastructure," he added. "The important thing is that every year the problems we experience during the rainy season are reduced."

slk/tj (AFP, dpa)