Relief Agencies Hard at Work in Typhoon-Stricken Philippines

Robert Wayne

Relief Agencies Hard at Work in Typhoon-Stricken Philippines

A single shoe floated down the flooded road like a boat bobbing in water, a sad reminder of how thousands remain in need in the northern Philippines after back-to-back typhoons ravaged the region last week.

Some say the worst is over, but degree of difficulty always is in the eye of the beholder. Even today, some residents of washed-out areas remain stranded on their roofs. Others can be spotted wading through knee-deep water carrying plastic tubs, hoping that someone working for one of the relief agencies that have descended on the islands will drop in food or water.

Those agencies include such high-profile names as the Red Cross and World Vision, but also smaller local groups who are sacrificing time and suffering financial hardship to lend a hand.

“Flood waters remain waist-deep here in Hagonoy for more than a week already,” said Lanie Carillo, a World Vision communicator sent to the stricken area. “There hardly is any source of food and water for the people, and electricity is still cut.”

The devastation was due in large part to a double whammy – typhoon Nesat, followed days later by typhoon Nalgae that hit the low-lying cities of Manila, Malabon, Bulacan and northern provinces of Pampanga, Zambales and Isabela. The death count approached 60, while more than 100 were injured and 50,000 families affected.

World Vision initially provided 500 canned biscuits and 500 bottles of water benefiting about 2,500 people. It also is pushing through with distribution of food items, rice and corn seeds to 7,000 families, according to World Vision communications manager G. Jeff Lamigo.

The Red Cross, meanwhile, set up an estimated 400 evacuation centers filled with about 40,000 families after the second typhoon rolled through.

Rescuers throughout Metro Manila and the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Bulacan and the rest of Central Luzon are using rubber boats and canoes to help those in areas still flooded, said Alex Mahoney, manager of the American Red Cross disaster programs for Asia, the Middle East and Europe, adding that the relief organization also is assisting with search and rescue and evacuation operations.

Reports indicate that destruction from the typhoon’s wrecking winds will reach into the billions of dollars.

World Vision sent four relief trucks into the flooded regions of Bulacan and Haganoy this week, and when the residents saw the welcome site they gathered around to receive aid, according to Lamigo. People walked through flooded streets from as far away as three miles to get help.

Children often become the most susceptible to the rigors of such tragedy, and World Vision is striving to make sure the youngest victims receive vouchers to buy school materials to make up for lost items. World Vision has worked with local malls and grocery stores to provided needed school supplies. The organization is targeting 32,800 families in need of the most urgent assistance.

The Philippines is not alone, however, in suffering through the double typhoon disaster. Throughout Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, hundreds were killed and thousands left homeless as the flood waters rose. In some areas, residents and authorities are describing the flooding as the worst in memory.

Much of the relief agency work took place before the storms hit. In Vietnam, volunteers worked with local fishermen to tie down 3,000 boats. People from the region are highly dependent on fishing and rice farming, so preventative steps are important in helping communities and rural areas recover faster after the typhoons strike.

The Red Cross reports that the fear in Vietnam is that brackish flood waters will find their way into the Mekong River, through Cambodia and back into southern Vietnam, where the Mekong Delta is experiencing the worst floods in a decade. More than five million people in several of the delta provinces are at risk.

According to government reports in Cambodia, the water coming from the north has affected 16 of the country’s 24 provinces. A Cambodian Red Cross assessment estimates at least 72,300 people have been affected, with 2,300 houses damaged or destroyed.

Thailand also is feeling the strain of some of the worst flooding in 50 years. More than 200 people have died and more than 2.8 million affected since July.

Is the worst really over? If more rain heads in, it is possible that the northern flooding will dip south and affect millions more.

The Red Cross and World Vision, among other agencies, are hoping to raise more than $2 million to care for those in need of clothes, shelter, food and water.

Publication date: October 6, 2011