Philippine Storm Kills 3 in Zones Still Reeling From Disasters

Three people died and as many as 18,000 fled their homes as tropical storm Kajiki swept through areas of the central Philippines yet to recover from last year’s Typhoon Haiyan and a 7.2-magnitude earthquake.

Two men drowned and one was electrocuted, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported in a 6 a.m. bulletin. Kajiki, named Basyang locally, triggered landslides and flooding as it battered the Visayas and Mindanao regions with wind gusts up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) per hour. At least 81 homes were damaged, the risk agency said.

More than half those displaced are in Leyte and Tacloban, which accounted for 85 percent of the 6,201 killed when Haiyan hit Nov. 8. The government estimates the reconstruction bill from that storm at 361 billion pesos ($8 billion). The Asian Development Bank says natural disasters cost the Philippines $1.6 billion a year, the most in Southeast Asia.

“There has to be a sustainable rehabilitation plan on the ground,” said Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform in Manila. “Much of President Benigno Aquino’s political capital is at stake if the rehabilitation is not done right.”

Haiyan, the strongest typhoon ever to make landfall, displaced 4 million people and damaged 1.14 million homes. Almost three months later, operations at Tacloban airport remain limited and power has yet to be fully restored in the city, which suffered the most from the typhoon, according to a Jan. 29 risk agency report.

Still Vulnerable

Many people in the storm zone still live in tents and temporary shelters where they remain vulnerable, Casiple said. “The government knows that typhoons can come this year; it should have been more prepared.”

The Philippines, battered by cyclones that form over the Pacific Ocean, is the second most-at-risk nation globally from tropical storms, after Japan, according to Maplecroft, a research company based in Bath, England.

“We are thankful” this latest storm didn’t strengthen further, Panfilo Lacson, head of the government’s post-Haiyan rebuilding, said in a phone interview. There are no reports of major damage, he said, adding that reconstruction plans remain on track, if not ahead of schedule.

Kajiki, named after a spearfish in Japan, weakened into a low pressure area as it crossed into the South China Sea, the weather bureau said.

The government is studying a three-step storm surge alert system that will issue warnings as early as 48 hours before waves as high as five meters reach the shore, Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said in a Jan. 31 statement. A flood warning system has also been proposed, he said.

On Nov. 7, the night before Haiyan hit, President Aquino warned of storm surges as high as 6 meters. The deadly typhoon blew a wall of water that may have reached 7.5 meters into Tacloban, much of which sits less than 5 meters above sea level, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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