Looking Back at Ondoy

Andreas Klippe no responses September 26, 2019

It has been ten years since Typhoon Ketsana (locally named Ondoy) ravaged the Philippines. It left in its wake fatalities, destroyed homes and livelihoods, and immeasurable emotional trauma to victims. Urban centers were especially hit hard. Will we be able to say that we are prepared for more intense storms or are we leaving ourselves vulnerable to similar outcomes?

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A Decade Before

On September 23, 2009, a tropical depression entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility which the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) named Ondoy. The Philippine wet season was in full swing. Habagat or the Southwest monsoon was already hammering the country with torrential rains and strong winds, thus the arrival of a new tropical depression raised no alarms. PAGASA warned people that Ondoy and habagat combined would intensify rainfall, but as it was not a tropical storm yet, people turned a blind eye to it.

In three days time, September 26, 2009, Ondoy would make landfall in Aurora Province. Unexpected amounts of rain fell all over the island of Luzon. A month’s amount of precipitation fell in the span of one day.

Ondoy anniversary featured image
The aftermath of Ondoy revealed one of the root causes of the floods: trash. (Photo by: Michelle Martinez)

Flooding was expected, but it also showed us the glaring root of the problem. Evacuees were wading in floods carrying deplorable amounts of trash and waste. Plastic and other non-biodegradable garbage were swimming in up to 23 meters of flood. It is no surprise that after the storm, victims also suffered from outbreaks of leptospirosis.

After Ondoy had passed the country, it left with $246 million in damages to infrastructure and agriculture.

A Decade After

Ondoy damages
Despite better waste disposal efforts, trash remains a problem in the Philippines as it was named 3rd largest contributor to ocean plastic waste. (Photo by: Christopher Ng)

The Philippines has since recovered from the heartbreak of Ondoy. Laws for better disaster protection and preparedness were enacted. In true bayanihan fashion, communities have educated and organized themselves to keep each other safe. But most of all, it moved lawmakers and local government units (LGUs) to act on waste disposal and management.

Today, the damage of Ondoy and its aftermath could easily be revisited through the internet. We will still find the videos of SUVs and other vehicles being swept away like toys or of people stranded on roofs of multi-level buildings.

There is no reason for the same images to be repeated in the future. We now have access to better ways of flood control. While the government can take action in setting up for preparedness and disaster response, it will still be up to us to ensure our safety.

We can continue to address the root causes that led to the worsening of Ondoy’s effects. Better waste disposal techniques can help everyone prevent worse floods and, most of all, help battle climate change.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Now that survivors have been able to pick up and improve their lives, where do we go from here? Do you think we can truly say we are now flood-ready? How do you prepare yourself and your family for future storms? Let us hear from you! Share your stories by leaving a comment here or on our Facebook page.

Information can be your first step to being flood-ready. For more articles like this, sign up for our newsletter.

Andreas Klippe

About author

Andreas Klippe is founder of the Asian Center for Flood Control located in Clark Freeport Zone, Philippines.

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