Thousands of people remain in emergency shelters after erratic rains triggered devastating flooding on Christmas Day. Floods in the Philippines, a nation ranked among the world’s most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, are a recurring event and have intensified in recent years as the world gets warmer.

The death toll from the Christmas floods in the Philippines has risen to 51, while 19 people, mostly fishermen whose boats capsized, remain missing, the national disaster response agency said on Monday. 

Most deaths were from drowning and landslides and occurred in Northern Mindanao and the Vasayas region, the areas most impacted by torrential rains. Nearly 5,000 houses were damaged, along with several roads and bridges, while water and power supplies were also disrupted. As of Tuesday, around 8,600 people were still in emergency shelters.

According to the state weather bureau, the floods occurred when a shear line – the point where warm and cold air meet –triggered heavy rains just as the disaster-prone nation of 110 million people prepared for Christmas celebrations, with millions of people on the road traveling to their hometowns. 

Floods have been recurrent in the Philippines in 2022. This comes at the back of the country topping this year’s World Risk Index, which assesses sea level rise  – a cause of coastal flooding and one of the biggest environmental issues in the Philippines – as one of its indicators. 

In line with the problem, Earth.Org’s projection shows that residents of the country’s capital city, Manila, will be displaced by 2100 if the current trend continues. Currently, Manila is already subsiding at 20 millimetres per year, surpassing the mean sea level rise almost tenfold. 

But the Philippines isn’t the only country at risk. In 2021, the Asian Development Bank released a report warning that Southeast Asia will suffer losses larger than most other regions in the world. Under a business-as-usual scenario, climate change could reduce the region’s GDP by 11%, impacting key industries such as agriculture, tourism, fishing, health and labour productivity. Without technological advancements, rice yields in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam could be reduced by almost 50% by 2100 from 1990 levels. 

Featured image by Angelica Villarta via AFP

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