Farmers hit hard as Typhoon Koppu exits Philippines

Publicado: 22 octubre 2015 13:57 CET

By Kate Marshall, IFRC

As Typhoon Koppu dissipates over the western Pacific, thousands of Filipinos are returning home after the worst tropical storm to have hit the island of Luzon in five years.

Since Sunday, when it first made landfall in the eastern province of Aurora, the slow-moving typhoon dumped massive amounts of rain as it moved north-west across Luzon. With a diameter of at least 500 km, the impact of Koppu was felt across most of the island as severe flooding affected 1.2 million people and caused damage to an estimated 42,000 homes.

Landslides in mountainous Benguet province accounted for about a third of the 40 fatalities, while many others were swept away by rough seas and floodwaters. Philippine Red Cross search and rescue teams rescued over 700 people at the peak of the flooding.

Red Cross emergency response teams have supplemented the Government’s own relief efforts in some areas, distributing several thousand hot meals, food packs and non-food items. Support was also provided by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the form of relief items for 1,500 families which are being distributed in Aurora, Cagayan and Isabela provinces.

Government figures show nearly 24,000 people were pre-emptively evacuated to emergency centres from the path of the Typhoon, while a further 25,000 staying with friends or relatives have yet to return home. Quick action from local municipal officials to order evacuations, especially from flood-prone areas next to rivers, helped to reduce the loss of life. Red Cross assessment teams who spoke with local people in affected areas report that most heeded the government warnings and were able to secure their goods and livestock in time before the onset of the floods.  

Now, water-levels are slowly receding in the mainly rural north and north eastern parts of Luzon. But it is a different picture in the low-lying agricultural areas further south, which are vital to food production on the island. The Government estimates damage to agriculture and infrastructure at about US$157 million. Among the hardest hit are rice and vegetable farmers in Nueva Ecija, Pampanga and Bulacan, and their recovery is expected to be prolonged.

While Typhoon Koppu has replenished dam levels and brought much needed rain to alleviate the dry spell caused by El Niño; the release over a few days of millions of litres of water from the Luzon’s three main dams has compounded the flooding of agricultural areas and put pressure on the island’s already overflowing major river systems.

Hundreds of farmers from Nueva Vizcaya who planted two months early to pre-empt the drought, were forced to leave their homes and even their livestock behind as the swift rise in water-levels caused by heavy rain and dam releases left them little time to prepare.

Many evacuees said while they were used to annual floods, but this year the water is taking much longer than usual to recede. Mother of two Mariel Delacruz, who lives in a village next to the vast Cagayan River system, said: "Our house is flooded and we will have to wait three to four days for the water to go, which is unusual. We will go home as soon as it is safe."