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World Bank to help Philippines fight floods

MANILA, January 19, 2011 (AFP) – The World Bank said Wednesday it would finance a project to design Manila’s defenses against floods like the one that killed hundreds of people when monster rains engulfed the Philippine capital in 2009.

The 1.5-million-dollar grant will be used to craft a ‘comprehensive flood management master plan’ to lessen the impacts of heavy rains that regularly soak the city of more than 12 million people.

“We are committed to working with the government… in reducing people’s vulnerability to natural disasters as well as strengthening the country’s resilience to these calamities,” World Bank country director Bert Hofman said.

He noted that many of the country’s poor lived in environmentally fragile and hazardous areas, such as near waterways, sea walls, slopes, and in low-lying areas, making them vulnerable to natural disasters like floods and typhoons.

The grant followed a World Bank report that concluded Manila and its largely poverty-stricken surrounding areas remained vulnerable to flooding after Tropical Storm Ketsana submerged 80 percent of the city in September 2009.

Ketsana sent water six metres (20 feet) high throughout parts of Manila, washing away entire riverside villages and slums.

The floods were exacerbated by abysmal urban planning that allowed the poor to live in vulnerable areas, logging of forests upstream of Manila and the clogging by garbage of natural drainage areas.

A week after Ketsana, typhoon Parma ravaged the northern Philippines, worsening the crisis.

Together, the storms killed over 1,000 people and caused damage and losses amounting to 4.4 billion dollars, or 2.7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

An estimated 20 typhoons slam into the Philippines every year from the Pacific.

Forecasters said the situation this year could be worse than normal, with the La Nina weather phenomenon already dumping unseasonal rains over large parts of the archipelago.

Fifty-seven people have died from flooding and landslides due to the rains that began in late December, according to authorities.

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