Communities face multiple challenges following Typhoon Melor

Published: 19 January 2016 3:28 CET

By MJ Evalarosa, IFRC @MJEvalarosa

As communities in the Philippines begin to recover from the combined impacts of Typhoon Melor and Tropical Depression Twenty Three, many classrooms in the affected provinces are still too damaged to be used. According to the Department of Education, more than a thousand classrooms were totally damaged, while 2,000 more require major repairs. Regular classes have resumed on 4 January 2016 but many schools had to set up temporary classrooms or conduct their lessons outside the damanged buildings. 

For students in the town of MacArthur, going to school meant helping to clear the debris and salvage what they could from their classrooms. The town, which is nestled within the municipality of Monreal in Masbate, suffered the worst of the damage when the typhoon struck. Father Danilo dela Bajan, who lives inside the school grounds, said that it would take another week before they can resume classes.

“It is difficult to find workers to set up temporary classrooms and help clear the debris, because they themselves are victims of the typhoon and are busy repairing or rebuilding their own homes,” Father Danilo said. “At the moment, our school urgently needs chairs and books, since they have been completely destroyed.”

For some schools, like in San Vicente in Bulusan, Sorsogon, students were asked to help clear the debris from fallen trees and damaged roof under the supervision of their teachers. In the town of Kauswagan in the Biri Islands, Northern Samar, school only started on 6 January as students and teachers spent the first three days cleaning broken glass and burying them to prevent anyone from getting cut.  

Last December, Typhoon Melor and Tropical Depression Twenty Three triggered a massive flooding that caused structural damage in several areas in Southern Luzon and Eastern Visayas. At the peak of the typhoon, over 362,000 people were being supported inside and outside evacuation centres. The estimated cost of damage to agriculture and infrastructure is 6.5 billion Philippine Pesos (USD 140 million), with agriculture damage alone amounting to 4.3 billion Philippine Pesos (USD 90 million).

Over a month since the typhoon, communication and electricity lines are still down in many provinces, particularly in areas that are difficult to reach like island communities in Masbate and Northern Samar. “Our only form of communication with the most affected areas like Northern Samar was via radio since cell phone lines were down,” said Philippine Red Cross Chairman, Richard Gordon.

On 18 December, a composite team from the Philippine Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was deployed to Northern Samar to assess the damage wrought by Typhoon Melor. In total, 872 personnel consisting of 136 staff members and 736 Red Cross volunteers took part in the relief operation.   

“We wanted to see the extent of the damage and to make an assessment as to how we can assist the communities so that they can get back on their feet,” Gordon added. 

For the latest updates on the emergency response in the Philippines, follow @IFRCAsiaPacific.