Typhoon Rammasun batters eastern Philippines, but preparedness saved lives

تم النشر: 17 يوليه 2014 11:55 CET

By Kate Marshall, IFRC

Tracking across some of the  most populous areas of the Philippines in just over 24 hours,  Typhoon Rammasun,  like its namesake – the Thai god of thunder – left a trail of destruction in its wake, stripping roofs, uprooting trees and causing storm surges, flash floods and mudslides.

Rammasun, the year’s strongest storm so far, intensified and picked up speed once it struck the Philippines eastern seaboard on Tuesday, becoming a category 3 storm with winds of up to 205 km per hour.

One million people were affected as the typhoon passed through Bicol, Quezon, parts of the Visayas and the main island of Luzon, including Metro Manila, before sweeping out to sea towards China and Northern Viet Nam. According to government estimates, 7,000 homes were destroyed and a further 20,000 were damaged.

Across the country 530,000 people were evacuated from their homes prior to the arrival of the typhoon. Authorities in the Visayan city of Tacloban, badly hit by Typhoon Haiyan last November, evacuated some 27,000 people.

Several provinces and cities declared a state of calamity, enabling them to access national emergency funds. Despite the deaths of 38 people, officials expressed relief that Rammasun had come and gone with fewer casualties and less damage than feared. This time authorities had been better prepared and residents heeded warnings.

Philippine Red Cross response teams were on high alert well before the typhoon arrived, with equipment including rescue trucks, amphibious vehicles and rubber boats readied for deployment. The Red Cross provided thousands of hot meals, food packs and non-food items to affected people in several provinces, while its emergency response teams helped in rescue efforts.

With the departure of the storm, the Red Cross began conducting assessments in the worst affected regions. The focus now is on clearing debris left behind by the storm and providing water containers and non-food relief items. Water tankers have also been sent to areas without safe drinking water. The Red Cross is mobilising community volunteers to help in distribution efforts in densely populated coastal municipalities such as Taguig in Metro Manila, that are still without power and clean water.  

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies already had pre-positioned supplies of non-food relief items and hygiene kits for 20,000 families, as well as 10,000 tarpaulins in Tacloban.

Pre-positioned stocks of vital disaster response items means help and support is quicker to arrive. Catherine Gearing/Australian Red Cross

Pre-positioned stocks of vital disaster response items means help and support is quicker to arrive. Catherine Gearing/Australian Red Cross

Speaking to the BBC, Richard Gordon, the chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, said there were no reports of major flooding in the metropolitan area because the typhoon brought less rain than feared.

Philippine Red Cross Secretary General Gwen Pang said it was important to remember that despite its lower than expected impact in Manila, damage caused by the typhoon in other areas remained extensive.

“We’ve had positive feedback from our chapters that our disaster risk reduction training may have had a substantial effect on mitigating Rammasun’s impact. However, thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed,” she said.

She cautioned against complacency. “Now the typhoon season is in full swing, we still need every bit of support we can get, particularly as we have ongoing operations to support recovery efforts after the earthquake in Bohol and Typhoon Haiyan last year.”

A country of islands that is used to at least 20 typhoons a year, the Philippines is gearing up for the arrival of tropical depression Henry at the weekend.