In a matter of hours, some communities in Eastern Mindanao were literally blown away by Typhoon Bopha (locally called Pablo). The Red Cross is bringing relief to thousands of survivors in this part of southern Philippines, which was hit first and hardest by the typhoon when it made landfall on 4 December.
“There’s nothing left in some places. We tried to find evacuation centres, but many of them had collapsed,” says Wilson Mondal, an Red Cross emergency team member who was deployed to an area where the eye of the typhoon passed.
“Some people are just living on the side of the road. They need everything.” “The destruction is so severe that almost no coconut trees are still standing,” reports Mondal “Many people have seen their entire livelihood wiped out in this one event. They will need assistance for a long time to come.”
About 80 to 95 per cent of the area has been destroyed in four of the worst-hit municipalities alone, an area with a population of roughly 141,000. The Red Cross’ emergency response is particularly focused in these four communities of Baganga, Cateel, Boston and Caraga. People here have not only lost their homes but are facing almost total destruction of the crops and vegetation upon which they depend for their livelihoods.
Delivering food and relief
The Red Cross immediately dispatched food kits and relief items for 21,000 people in the three worst-hit provinces (Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley and Surigao del Sur). With bridges destroyed and roads impassable along the most direct coastal road, other means and routes have been found to bring these life-saving goods to the people. These supplies will be distributed in the coming days, while several hundred more tonnes of food and thousands of emergency kits are alrady on the way.
Meanwhile, Red Cross relief has already arrived in New Bataan, Compostela Valley province, which also experienced mudslides and flash floods. The Red Cross had already distributed food for 3,700 people for three weeks, plus enough hygiene, emergency shelter and cooking items for 600 people. Emergency relief kits, accompanied by food to last for three weeks, have been issued to 2,000 people in Surigao del Sur, while 1,600 displaced people in Baganga, Davao Oriental, received food for three weeks.
Helping treat the injured
Local hospitals have been attempting to cope with the sudden flood of patients injured during the typhoon. Bopha, with winds of up to 185 kilometres per hour, was one of the most powerful in recent years, even for a country that is accustomed to extreme tropical storms.
Even before the typhoon’s arrival, medicines and medical supplies had been positioned for use in case of such emergencies in numerous hospitals around Mindanao. This positioning of stocks has formed part of the Red Cross’ regular support for many years. The Red Cross provided additional support to such sites as Davao Regional Hospital, the main referral facility for the region, that has experienced an influx of nearly 300 patients. At least 125 of them are seriously injured, placing a strain on a hospital of this size. This hospital, along with two others in Bukidnon and Compostela Valley provinces, received additional donations of specialized supplies to treat the wounded that would not otherwise have been available, including intravenous fluids, painkillers, antibiotics and plaster for fractures.
Improving access to water
Bopha severely or completely damaged existing water networks in some municipalities, making access to water an urgent need. Red Cross emergency response teams are currently working to treat and transport water to be distributed at strategic locations.
Montevista, a municipality in Compostela Valley province, was struck badly by the typhoon. The Red Cross’ donation of pipes and other materials helped a provincial hospital repair its damaged water system. Similarly, a donation for construction materials helped repair its district jail, which was damaged in the typhoon and left without electricity or water.
Photo: A boy is cleaning up a pail, one of the remaining things in their house that were spared from Typhoon Bopha.