Typhoon Hagupit aid effort praised
A massive typhoon crept across central Philippines on Sunday, sending thousands of people into shelters and pouring heavy rain that heightened the risk of flooding and landslides. Typhoon Hagupit — its name means “lash” in Filipino — moved west-northwest and targeted the city of Legazpi, just north of where the storm made landfall on Saturday.
Aid officials in the Philippines praised efforts to keep safe up to one million people who fled the path of typhoon Hagupit, including a woman who gave birth in an evacuation shelter. Blowing gusts of up to 130mph (210km/h), Hagupit, the most powerful storm to hit the Philippines in 2014, destroyed rooftops, trees and cut power across the Philippines’ central east coast as it swept over the same impoverished part of the country devastated by Haiyan last year.
The intensity of the storm dropped to category three before it hit Eastern Samar on Saturday night but it was expected to linger over some of the country’s lesser-populated islands for at least two more days. ABC news in Australia reported that authorities had confirmed two deaths in the town of Borongan after the arrival of Hagupit, which means “lash” in Tagalog.
The official numbers of evacuees from the Philippines government is just over 650,000 but the Red Cross suggested the number was closer to one million. Local media reports focussed on the good news story of 23-year-old woman Marilyn Ramonolos, who safely gave birth in an evacuation centre with a midwife guided by a doctor on the phone from Manila.
Oxfam Philippines director Justin Morgan told Guardian Australia that his teams on the ground so far had found property damage in Samar was “not extensive”
The same areas just over a year ago bore the full brunt of Haiyan, the world’s deadliest natural disaster in 2013, which claimed more than 6,000 lives and triggered storm surges that wiped out entire towns.
“The levels of devastation in those areas are nowhere near as high and they’ll be able to recover quite quickly,” Morgan said. “And we’ve seen that the evacuation centres have worked very well to look after not only wind and rain but also this time much more importantly really taking into account the potential for a storm surge.”
Morgan said Haiyan had “shined the spotlight” on inadequate warnings around storm surges especially, and authorities had lifted their game this time around. The government has been issuing messages continuously around wind speeds and rainfall but also around storm surges and the likely areas and the likely heights and that has helped people prepare better for such a typhoon.”
Morgan said the government had moved food stocks and medical teams into location ahead of the storm’s impact, ready to support evacuees and minimise casualties. Some 25,000 people in Samar and Leyte to the south were still living in tents and temporary shelters after Haiyan, some of which were torn apart by Hagupit.
The Philippines is hit by about 20 typhoons a year but the United Nations and many scientists claim the storms have become more violent and unpredictable because of climate change.
Typhoon #Hagupit #RubyPH now moving over Sibuyan Sea. Main threat now for #Philippines: flash floods & mudslides. pic.twitter.com/2c5cnhhaHH
— Ivan Cabrera (@IvanCabreraTV) December 7, 2014