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Typhoon-hit Philippine diocese begs for clean water

Acute shortage raises health fears for storm victims in evacuation centers

Typhoon-hit Philippine diocese begs for clean water

Residents shelter on the second floor of their house surrounded by floodwater in the town of Ilagan in Isabela province, north of Manila, on Nov. 14, two days after Typhoon Vamco hit parts of the Philippines. (Photo: Bill Visaya/AFP) 

A Philippine diocese has issued an urgent appeal for potable and clean water for victims in a region badly hit by Typhoon Vamco last week.

Ilagan Diocese in Cagayan province, north of Manila, issued the appeal after floodwater submerged thousands of homes when water was released by a nearby dam.

An official at Magat Dam said the high volume of rain brought by Typhoon Vamco forced them to open seven spillway gates to prevent the reservoir from overflowing.

“We needed to stabilize the dam’s water level. If we overload the dam and that overloading is prolonged, it could break,” operation manager Wilfredo Gloria said.

The flooding, however, resulted in a drop in the clean water supply in the region.

Many residents, including Manila’s 14 million population, were being subjected to a rotational water supply due to “high turbidity” (mud content) brought about by the typhoon.

“Please give us drinking water as the water available in our region is not safe to drink. We need clean water for thousands of Cagayanons [residents in the province] in evacuation centers,” said the diocese’s social action center chief, Father Carlito Sarte.

He also expressed concern that the lack of water in evacuation centers and hospitals may help spread the coronavirus.

“There is also a health issue involved here that may arise due to a lack of access to clean and safe water, especially during this coronavirus pandemic,” the priest said.

Father Sarte’s health fears followed recent Health Department reports that said Covid cases in the Philippines spiked due to delays in relaying test results in medical facilities.

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The department said 31 laboratories failed to submit Covid specimens to testing centers due to damaged roads and power outages.

Father Sarte said water is essential in evacuation centers in order to contain the virus by frequent hand washing.

“The situation is still hard. You can manage for some days without food but not without water ... People need to maintain hygiene by washing their hands to prevent the spread of the coronavirus ... We really need water,” he said. 

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