Winnie Romeril and Joe Lowry of the International Federation
The start of the 2007 typhoon season in South East Asia has been marked by torrential rains and heavy flooding in several countries, including Viet Nam, Indonesia, Cambodia, the Philippines and Myanmar.
This year’s rains are falling on already saturated and mountainous terrain, causing damage to terraced hillside crops, as well as severe flooding in the valleys. Access roads to remote areas have also been wiped out in some places.
Throughout the region, the Red Cross and Red Crescent is supporting vulnerable residents, using its unique system of community-based volunteers to distribute relief and assist those affected by the floods.
Unusually heavy rains have fallen on Quang Binh and Ha Tinh provinces in recent days, causing floods that led to the deaths of 36 people. More than 30,000 houses have been damaged. Railways have also been blocked in some places and many roads have been rendered impassable.
Boats are being used in some districts to check on the status of trapped villagers and deliver aid, while other areas remain completely cut off, making it difficult to carry out assessments. As of 9 August, more than 250,000 people had been affected and were estimated to be in need of emergency relief. The flood waters were not expected to recede for several days.
In response to the flooding, the Viet Nam Red Cross has distributed boxes containing mosquito nets, blankets and water containers to buy emergency food for 900 of the worst-affected families.
Staff members from the National Society’s headquarters in Hanoi have travelled to the hardest hit regions, along with representatives from the International Federation and officials, to carry out a joint needs assessment.
Search and rescue efforts for missing people are continuing as dried mud blankets communities in Indonesia, following heavy flooding there. Hundreds of houses have been buried, many schools are still closed and both agriculture and fish farming have also been affected.
Despite continued rains since the end of July, more villages have become accessible via boat, tractor and motorbike. Trucks and boats have been hired to help deliver 500 kits of hygiene items, including soap and toothpaste, along with 1,000 tarpaulins to the worst affected areas.
Some relief is delivered directly to householders, while in other cases, village leaders have made their way to local emergency operations centres to pick up bulk quantities to take back to their communities. Clean water supplies, baby items, hygiene supplies, clothes and blankets are still needed, especially in areas hit by landslides.
The rains over the past few weeks have resulted in at least 12 separate landslides. More than 72 people have been killed, while 18 are still missing. More than 3,300 people are still homeless.
While many displaced residents have moved in with relatives as far away as Palu, the district capital, some are staying in temporary shelters, where cases of dengue, diarrhoea and skin irritations have been reported. Health posts in the area are scaling up their activities in response
In the evacuation camps and at Kolonodale Hospital, Indonesian Red Cross volunteers are working closely with government health officers to provide medical help to people.
The local Red Cross SATGANA rescue team continues to deliver humanitarian assistance to hospitals, health posts, and camp shelters, while the government has dispatched 17 doctors and another specialized surgical and orthopaedic team to support the effort.
The International Federation’s disaster management officer is on the ground to provide technical and financial assistance, monitor the situation and coordinate with other agencies.
In Cambodia, more than 3,200 families have been affected by flooding in north and central parts of the country, where the water reached a metre deep (three feet) in some places, damaging roads and other infrastructure.
Flash floods along the Thai border have damaged 600 hectares of rice paddies and over 45 metric tonnes of food has been released for emergencies if required.
Plastic sheeting has been distributed by the Red Cross, but more is needed, as is safe water and food.
Myanmar has not been spared from the rains, which started in the north of the country in July and are now pounding the so-called “dry zone” in the centre of the country.
As a preparedness measure, the Myanmar Red Cross stockpiled relief supplies, including hygiene items and tarpaulins, around the country before the rains hit. They have also been staffing health care centres. As of 10
August, water levels were still on the rise along several rivers.
In Mon State, six relief camps are up and running, while Red Cross volunteers are building latrines, distributing food packages to affected people, and providing health care. It’s estimated that more than 10,000 people have been affected in 11 provinces. Waters have reached as high as two metres in some places but are gradually receding.
Philippines & Thailand
In the Philippines, almost 6,000 people were evacuated from Metro Manila due to excessive flooding on 9 August.
Rain-induced landslides, triggered by two tropical storms, have also injured or killed several people. Cavite provice was esimtated to have had the highest number of affected people at over 40,000.
More monsoon rains and tropical storm weather are in the forecast for the Philippines, while residents in 11 provinces of Thailand have been warned to brace themselves for the possibility of flash floods, monsoon winds and heavy rains.
Forecasters say 60 per cent of areas in Bangkok could be affected, according to media reports.