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An Expat’s First Flood


Before leaving Australia to live in the Philippines, I was met mostly with blank stares and inquisitive glances from friends and family upon informing them about the news. It seemed that most of them knew virtually nothing about the country. The exceptions were a few well-travelled individuals who were able to demonstrate their vast knowledge of the area by naming Manila as the capital. My own research about the area had mentioned how hospitable the people were, the prevalence of religion, the societal contrasts, and the tropical weather. There were cautions about pick-pocketing, taxi scams and drinking water, but little was said about flooding.


Major roads have been blocked leaving people stranded.


Right now, one month into my stay I find myself in the middle of Tropical Storm ‘Maring’. The rain came hard and fast at more than an inch per hour, and before I knew it, there were reports that half of Manila was underwater. Growing up with the hyperbolic media in Australia, I thought this was an exaggeration. I soon found out that several areas had been declared a State of Calamity; 600,000 people had been affected; at least 8 dead; many roads had become rivers; and it was certainly no exaggeration. Many companies halted operations, as did government departments and universities. Other major problems were caused by trees being uprooted, blocking access roads, and falling on power lines. Furthermore, rubbish in the waterways often causes blockages and exacerbates the problem.



Flooding is an unfortunate part of life in the Philippines.


In Australia there are occasional natural disasters as in recent years there have been floods in Queensland, bushfires in rural Victoria, and other isolated incidents around the country. However, in most areas, especially the main cities it is a safe and peaceful place, fairly undisturbed by Mother Nature most years. In fact, the opposite problem has faced Australia over the last 15-20 years, that of a severe ongoing drought and lack of rainfall. Getting used to the Philippines, which by contrast can have multiple typhoons every year is a large shock. Beyond the damage caused, there are secondary problems caused by the spread of diseases such as leptospirosis and cholera from exposure to unclean water that expats need to be aware of.

Floods in Manila

Some people have to wade through chest deep water or worse.


So far I have been lucky to not be directly affected, as I’m in an apartment building, and in an area of Makati that has not yet been deeply submerged. Walking through some ankle deep water on one street crossing is minor compared to what many others are facing. So to all potential expats, be informed but not alarmed about the realities of flooding in the Philippines. To all locals and current expats, take care and stay safe.

Author: Derek Stewart  


Photo Sources:

Metro Manila floods ease, roads now passable



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