Typhoon, Floods in the Philippines: first-person BB report from Audrey N. Carpio of The Philippine Star

Philippines flooding, Sept. 2009 (for BB, from Audrey N. Carpio of The Philippine Star)

Photos, above and after the jump, shared with Boing Boing by Audrey N. Carpio of The Philippine Star. Her first-person account from the ongoing disaster follows, and includes recommendations on how you can help the victims. She shot the photos in this post two days after the typhoon, on a relief drive in a town called Tumana. Link to Flickr set.

Typhoon Ondoy by Audrey Carpio

Typhoon Ondoy, aka Tropical Storm Ketsana dumped 40 cm of rain on the Philippines last Saturday before he/she left to wreak watery havoc upon Vietnam and Cambodia. But Manila and its surrounding environs are still in various states of calamity, with many parts of the city still submerged under dirty brown water and others, while drying out, caked in leptospirosis-inducing mud. The government and its presidentiables have been slow to act upon what could've been their Hurricane Katrina-hero moment but quick to seize upon relief efforts for electioneering. Instead, it is thanks to the generosity and ingenuity of the Filipino people who mobilized themselves through Twitter and Facebook that hundreds of thousands of victims have been fed, clothed and sheltered.

As early as Saturday evening, when people began to realize that floods have flashed rather quickly and videos of drowning trucks emerged on YouTube, relief plans grew almost organically on the networks. Tweets encouraging people to gather food, blankets, and clothing for donations were some of the earliest; by the next day there was an updatable and sharable Google spreadsheet on all the drop-off and volunteer centers; by Monday, almost all status updates and tweets had to do with emergency hotline numbers, relatives of friends who were stranded on a rooftop, and traffic advisories warning which roads were impassable. A Google map of people in need of rescuing was uploaded, although its usefulness is questionable, considering the general low-techness of the National Disaster Coordinating Council's rescue squads they only had 13 rubber boats with which to deploy to the affected barangays †or villages (to put it into perspective, 1.9 million people were inundated with flood water, nearly 380,000 have been evacuated into schools, churches and other emergency shelters, and 246 people have died.

Philippines flooding, Sept. 2009 (for BB, from Audrey N. Carpio of The Philippine Star)

But many lives were undoubtedly saved through information dissemination, random, repeated and retweeted as they may be. Through a shotgun marriage of new and old media, all the streaming online updates and SMS messages were filtered through Gang Badoy, a social advocate (www.RockEdRadio.com) who took it upon herself to hit the FM airwaves and broadcast the news she was receiving: which places needed help, who was about to give birth, and whether crocodiles really escaped from the zoo. Radio still reaches a heck of a lot more people here than anything put on the web. Erwin Romulo, a journalist and colleague of Gang's, says, "The only thing some people had were cellphones that could pick up only FM. Going for 16 hours straight over three days, she reported what people sent in. Any info. Citizen journalism in all its raw and brazen glory. Gang never wavered though she sometimes sounded delirious or distraught with each update. Reacting real time, you'd think she sounded crazy. But at that time, she was the sole voice of reason."

It has been four days since the deluge, and Metro Manila is still struggling and on survival mode. Donation tweets have been getting more specific: "Please bear in mind need for halal food aid for Muslim flood victims in Maharlika Village," and "Folks, volunteerism is flourishing but not enough goods. Women need sanitary napkins, babies diapers, antitetenus injections, can openers." This country was not prepared for a disaster of this sort; climate change wasn't even on the agenda. A new storm is about to come in -- we'll keep you posted on how we do. In the meantime, watch this video.

You may donate here (UNICEF) or here (Red Cross/Philippines).

(Special thanks to Karen Marcelo for her kind assistance.)

Philippines flooding, Sept. 2009 (for BB, from Audrey N. Carpio of The Philippine Star)