By Celso Dulce, CARE’s Philippines representative and disaster risk reduction advisor
Typhoon Haiyan, here in the Philippines also known as Yolanda, made landfall this morning at 4:40. I was watching the news and it showed extremely strong winds, heavy rains and damages in the affected areas. Since then, the super storm has crossed through half of our country and the eye of the typhoon is now hovering over the western areas of central Philippines. Haiyan is incredible big, it is 600 kilometres wide. That is larger than some cities! And it has the potential to affect 17 million people in highly populated areas.
Here in Manila everything is eerily calm. While heavy rains have been forecasted, they haven’t started yet. I am in the office, which I share with our partner organisation collecting all information on the impact of the typhoon. Normally, at this early stage, it is difficult to get a clear picture. The most affected areas have no power and I cannot reach our colleagues on the ground. So it will take several more hours until they can send me their first reports on the impact. While the pictures in the media remind me of typhoon Bopha, which devastated large parts of the Philippines in 2012, it seems to me that the damage might not be as high as it was back then. But of course, the media has also not able to reach the worst affected areas, so we might get a completely different – and worse – picture once power has been restored.
So far, official reports state that three people have died. These numbers will probably increase. At the same time, the government has done quite a remarkable job in evacuating 718,000 people and informing households of precaution and preparedness methods. Our partners, for example in Saint Bernard municipality in Southern Leyte and Calabanga in Camarines Sur, have evacuated households to take shelter in concrete and safe buildings. So this will hopefully impact the casualty numbers. However, a cyclone of this size and strength is likely to destroy fields, houses, boats – basically all people have to make a living. CARE, together with our partners, is already preparing to support families to get back on their feet. We also plan to help people receive food and get a roof over their heads. Once we have a better overview of the destruction we will plan our emergency response accordingly.
In order to assist as many people as possible, I am hoping to receive support from donors around the world. Haiyan is now headed towards Vietnam, where our colleagues from CARE Vietnam are bracing themselves for the impact. I hope the storm weakens so it won’t affect them severely.