Manila Flood Disaster Update – Social Media as Channel for Disaster Coordination

I won’t have my usual article this week. I want to use my free time following updates about the flooding in Manila, which happens to be my home country’s capital. The widespread flooding was due to tropical typhoon Ondoy (international codename Ketsana) that brought record-breaking rainfall. The most affected region of the Philippines is the Greater Manila area which has a population of around 20 million people. A state of national calamity has been declared over 27 provinces in 7 regions.

According to PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration), the average rainfall in Manila during September is about 390 millimeters.  But last Saturday, according to the Philippine Inquirer, the typhoon poured 340 millimeters of rain in a period of six hours. This is more rain than 2005’s Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. The six-hour flood surged across Manila and submerged houses, swept away thousands of cars and turned main thoroughfares into raging rivers. It forced residents to seek refuge on rooftops where some waited for more than 24 hours.

Rising Death Toll

According to Philippine Star, the typhoon left the country yesterday, leaving behind a trail of 95 people dead, 29 missing. According to the NDCC (Philippine National Disaster Coordinating Council), the number of affected people across Luzon has swelled to more than 300,000 people. This agency also reports that the partial total number of evacuees has reached nearly 60,000 people in 118 evacuation centers.  The Philippine government expects those numbers to rise.

Social media as channel for disaster coordination

twitter2I followed updates regarding the flooding from Facebook, where friends and groups posted up-to-date photos and news of what was happening on the ground. Many of those sites turned into assistance centers and channels that ask for and provide support for rescue and relief efforts. Through social media, I saw the resilience of the Filipino people in the face of adversity — showing once again our strong Bayanihan spirit.

I am also overwhelmed by the support of famous people in twitter like Aston Kutcher, Josh Groban, Demi Moore and Paulo Coelho. They have helped rally support for flood victims in Manila. These celebrity twitters have huge followings—Aston has 3.7 million followers online. Below are retweets from their sites.

  • @joshgroban RT The situation in the Philippines is becoming very dire. this is a good way to start helping.
  • @mrskutcher: typhoon victims in Philippines in need of food/clothng. Call the American Red Cross to help. 18004357669 @aplusk RT
  • @RedCross: U have mobilized 4 Philippines flooding in a big way. Philippine Red Cross is on the ground.
  • @paulocoelho @philredcross I already made my donation by bank order. Ur link does not have online donations. Paypal is not an option. Open online link

I have started my own donation drive here in the US starting with my friends. We will be sending voluntary donations through CEMEX Philippines Foundation. This can assist poor families in the evacuation centers who lost their homes and belongings. If you want to help also, please let me know. Our assistance, however small, goes a long way in my country; a dollar can buy half a kilo of rice and some canned goods that can feed a family a single meal while $20 could feed a family for a week.

Thank you for taking time to read this article. I will continue to post updates and news about the aftermath of the flooding and relief efforts of different concerned groups.

7 thoughts on “Manila Flood Disaster Update – Social Media as Channel for Disaster Coordination

  1. i am from australia i have helped and i wish many more australians would. i hope the next storms is kinder than this and goverments help protect there people.

    1. I appreciate your concern Allan. We sure hope this next super typhoon changes it course, otherwise it will hit the same area in the Philippines that is still recovering from the last disaster. I agree with you that the government needs stronger response next time.

  2. The Fury of Ondoy was incalculable but more than anything and even more telling that the immense rainfall was the apparent poor urban planning and management of metro manila. Water level rose in several areas turning residential and business areas into river. It caused a massive scare and furious rescue and aid effort. But totally this is a problem that the minds of this country must begin to tackle seriously. We have perhaps developed and overdevelop in risk prone areas, and we have let squatters and poor garbage habits of the masses degrade our sewerage system. It is high time that the government, private sector and individual communities act on this. The metro which is the heart of this country cannot be put into a frenzy panic all the time just because of a coming storm. Aggressive city planning, responsible leadership and innovative solutions must be put forward so that the metro can finally combat the decades long problem of easy widespread flooding occurrence.

    1. Well said Rye, you should run for Mayor of Manila…but you are right, we have a lot of things to improve. On the other hand climate change has really forced us to rethink disaster management. We can no longer rely on existing disaster recovery measures when now unexpected things like this happens. This does not happen only in the developing countries, even here in the US– flash floods also caused havoc in Georgia last week. After years of drought suddenly came unexpected amount of rain that caused flash floods. I heard that there is another super typhoon coming. Be safe and take care.

  3. Truly, Typhoon Ondoy has caught Metro Manila and other nearby provinces by surprise! In just a few hours, the metro was underwater. Major roads have become instant parking lot with stranded cars and commuters with majority of them still attempting to navigate the flooded streets just to reach home. This heavy flooding which is the worst in 40 years is a clear manifestation of climate change. No matter how prepared we are, and no matter how advance today’s technology is—we cannot control the forces of nature.
    We are learning our lessons the hard way. It’s not really too late, but we all have a lot of catching up to do in taking care of our environment. In our own little way let us do our share, no matter how small our individual act may be at least we are aware of our roles and responsibilities in healing mother earth.
    May the good Lord continue to help those who were affected by this cruel calamity. Open the hearts of your people to reach out their hands in helping and comforting those who are in need. Thank you Glenn for coming up with this article and for going out of your way just to be able to help our fellow Filipinos. God be with us.

    1. Art, thanks for the comment. You have a good argument on climate change here. We can longer correctly predict what comes. I mean how can we plan for something that has never happened before? Our sewerage systems and response to disaster were not prepared for this. A similar natural disaster happened here in the US last week. After years of drought in Georgia, rain poured massively and it caused flash flood that damage infrastructure. It was also unexpected.

      I heard that this Friday, another tropical storm is coming again to the same geographical area in the Philippines. Let’s hope and pray that this is just a regular typhoon that we are used to having every year and it won’t bring close to the same amount of rain.

      Also I would like to update you that we were able to send out our first batch of donations to the Philippines. It is already used for relief operations in evacuation centers.

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