By Carmela Fonbuena
MANILA--One week after Typhoon Frank ravaged the Philippines, Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III is worried of the possible health risks faced by the typhoon-ravaged areas because of the widespread shortage of potable water and poor sanitation.
“The devastation was really terrible, particularly in the provinces of Aklan and Iloilo . The whole of Kalibo town in Aklan is under mud. Many of them get their drinking water from open sources. This poses a threat to the people's health. They may suffer from diseases like typhoid fever, infections, or diarrhea,” Duque said in a recent interview.
Iloilo and Aklan are provinces of Region VI or western Visayas, the hardest hit when typhoon Frank hit the Philippines. Water supply is still irregular in both areas. They remain under mud, too.
In Iloilo city, one resident already died because of diarrhea, vice mayor Jed Mabilog today told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak. “But it's just one case so we still can't attribute it to the typhoon,” he said.
Unsafe drinking water is one of the major causes of diarrhea, a frequent loose or liquid bowel movement, which can lead to dehydration and sometimes death.
Rationing of water
Water supply in Iloilo city is still cut off, forcing the city government to ration water. “The main pipe from a neighboring town-which provides two-thirds of the city's water supply-was destroyed,” Mabilog explained. “The pipe was under a bridge that was destroyed during the typhoon. The bridge hit the pipe and damaged it. We only have one-third of our regular water supply.”
Although there are some areas with water pumps in the city, these were submerged in mud. “It will take a few weeks before the water in the pumps can be used,” Mabilog said.
The local water district in Kalibo town in Aklan province is servicing only three of the town's 16 barangays. The generator was submerged in mud during the typhoon. “According to a report of the local health office, diarrhea may become a problem in the following week,” Raymar RebladoTuesday (July 2) told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak.
The municipal government is also rationing mineral water to the barangays. “Fortunately, the water distributor agreed to supply us with container vans of mineral water even if we don't have money to pay them. We are under debt. The municipal government doesn't have the money to buy the needs of the people,” Reblado said.
Aside from diarrhea, the local government of Iloilo city and Kalibo town are also watching out against leptospirosis and tetanus.
“We are on the watch against the outbreak of leptospirosis. It's fatal. I had to take medicine against leptospirosis myself,” Reblado told abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newbreak. In Iloilo city, a team of local health officials is going around the city for the injection of the residents against tetanus and leptospirosis,” Mabilog said.
Leptospirosis and tetanus are both infectious diseases, which may be prevented by vaccines. Leptospirosis is a water-borne disease usual in flooded areas. It is caused by the contamination of the flood water with animal urine. Infection begins when the contaminated water comes in contact with broken skin. During the typhoon, water reached as high as a two-story house in Iloilo city and Kalibo town.
Tetanus, on the other hand, typically arises from a skin wound that becomes contaminated by bacteria often found in soil. Kalibo and Iloilo city remain under mud. “There are areas where mud is still two-feet high. When residents clean up, they don't see the broken glasses or metals in the mud,” Mabilog said.
Frank's death toll
The death toll from Typhoon Fengshen continues to rise. Based on the latest figures of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), death toll has reached 713.
The high death toll was attributed to flash flooding, particularly in western Visayas. It also includes the confirmed deaths of at least 173 passengers of the M/V Princess of the Stars, which capsized off Romblon province in the Visayas. The ferry, bound for Cebu Island , central Visayas, was carrying 866 passengers.
Fifty-six were found to have survived. The rest remain unaccounted for, believed to have been trapped inside the ferry.