By Afrhill Rances in Manila
As Tropical Storm Bopha heads towards the east coast of the Philippines, the Philippine Red Cross is taking measures to prepare for the impact. In the coming days the storm is expected to intensify to a typhoon and will make landfall in Northern Mindanao late on Tuesday night, bringing winds of up to 200 kmh.
Staff and volunteers in Philippine Red Cross chapters in Visayas and Mindanao have been placed on high alert and are monitoring the situation around the clock. The network of village level volunteers – known as ‘Red Cross 143’, has been mobilized and regular updates are being provided by the state-of-the-art operations centre in Manila. The centre has dedicated personnel who work in shifts to monitor disasters in real time and relay information, advisories and response plans to teams on the ground.
Contingency stocks of sleeping mats, blankets, jerry cans, mosquito nets and hygiene kits sufficient to meet the needs of 15,000 families are in already in place to ensure a rapid response. At the same time, the Philippine Red Cross is encouraging communities to take responsibility for their safety by providing them with information to ensure that they are well-prepared.
Gwendolyn Pang, Secretary General of the Philippines Red Cross, said conditions may be worse than the last major typhoon to hit the region. “When Typhoon Washi hit last year, we received 180mm of rainfall in a period of 24 hours. With Typhoon Bopha, it is predicted that we will be hit with 500 mm,” she said. “We share such information with communities but also with donors and partners, to give them an idea of the extent of the possible damage, so they too can plan support.”
Tropical Storm Bopha is following a path similar to that of Typhoon Washi, a late-season tropical cyclone, which caused catastrophic damage in the Philippines in December 2011 when it struck Mindanao. Entire communities were destroyed and over 1,200 people died in flash floods triggered by heavy rains.
“One of our long term roles has been to provide our emergency responders with knowledge, skills and equipment, so that they are able to save as many lives as possible in any disaster situation,” said Selvaratnam Sinnadurai, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ country representative for the Philippines. “As well as providing rescue boats and vehicles geared for flooding situations, we have used funds mobilized through previous emergency appeals to provide search and rescue training for volunteers and staff in Philippine Red Cross national headquarters and disaster-prone chapters.”