Emergency teams respond as typhoon Nesat exits and Nalgae looms

Published: 29 September 2011 17:00 CET

By Necephor Mghendi and Afrhill Rances in Manila 

Typhoon Nesat pounded the Philippines early Tuesday, 27 September 2011, triggering floods and widespread damage. Philippine Red Cross (PRC) emergency responders acted swiftly as they supported evacuation efforts in the capital, Manila, and other affected areas, moving hundreds of people trapped or threatened by flood water to safer grounds.

Typhoon Nesat made landfall over the mountainous Isabela and Aurora provinces in northern Luzon, with winds of up to 140kph and gusts of 170kph. Although it weakened as it made way across land, adverse conditions were reported across the entire island.

Dramatic flooding in Manila, resulting from sea surges that shattered and breached a seawall along the Manila Bay, forced the evacuation of several buildings, among them a hospital, a five-star hotel and an embassy. Toppled power lines disrupted the city’s electricty supply.

“We sent two teams to help evacuate patients and visitors trapped inside the hospital and provided a generator to help run essential services,” said PRC chairman, Richard Gordon. “We also removed 100 units of blood for safer storage at our blood centre.”

Red Cross staff and volunteers, equipped with amphibious vehicles, rubber boats, rescue trucks and ambulances, helped to take more than 2,500 people from at risk areas to shelters. Volunteers are manning welfare desks set up in the evacuations centres, and have served hot meals to about 7,000 evacuees.

Clearer picture emerges

A clearer picture of the typhoon’s impact is slowly emerging as monsoon rains continue to pound some areas of Luzon. The latest update from the national disaster risk reduction and management council (NDRRMC), indicates that the combined effects of typhoon Nesat have led to at least 35 deaths and 34 injuries. 45 people remain missing.

Reservoirs across the island of Luzon are also seeing the effects of the storm, with a couple of dams reaching spill levels. The authorities have advised residents in downstream areas to take pre-cautionary measures and be alert for an expected release of water – for flood control.

Manolito Parungao, a resident of San Miguel municipality in the province of Bulacan, has already felt the impact. His home, which stood next to a dyke, has been extensively damaged by floodwater that spilled from a reservoir early morning yesterday.

“This is the first time it has happened in the 27 years that I have lived in Bulacan,” he said. “Looking at my home now, one would think we used to live in the middle of a river Everything was swept away; documents, clothes, household items – name it. All that remained is the clothes we are wearing now.”

Staff and volunteers from PRC chapters are at the same time distributing essential relief supplies and carrying out rapid assessments. They have assisted at least 100 families with items such as blankets, sleeping mats, and jerry cans, but preliminary reports indicate that thousands of families will need relief in the near future.

A new threat

Even as these assessments continue, a new weather disturbance – tropical storm Nalgae – has entered the region. The government’s weather bureau projects that if the storm stays on its course, it will hit northern Luzon, potentially as a typhoon.

PRC is enhancing preparedness for the storm as it rolls out its response to typhoon Nesat. “We take every storm seriously and we will not tire or be complacent,” said the PRC’s Richard Gordon. “We have learnt that storms can change overnight, so we ask our supporters and partners to be ready to support our efforts, when we call on them.”

Meanwhile, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is prepared to support PRC efforts. Specialized personnel, emergency supplies and resources are available in country and in the region.

The Australian Red Cross, Japanese Red Cross Society, German Red Cross, Spanish Red Cross, and The Netherlands Red Cross offices in the Philippines have also placed their technical delegates on standby for joint assessments and to support PRC action, if required.