PHILIPPINES Super typhoon causes fear and panic

 Emergency Response
 4th Oct 2009

By Celso Dulce, CARE’s Project Representative in the Philippines. He is leading CARE’s emergency response to Typhoon Ketsana in Manila. Celso is from Manila.

It started to rain a few hours ago, and it’s dark. Today we were supporting the government order to evacuate people from high-risk areas as a precautionary measure. I just returned from securing the warehouses for relief distribution, because the goods might be damaged. Another storm is coming. We don’t know how bad, but the rain is getting harder.

Some areas are still flooded. In some areas, we don’t know why, the water started to rise again yesterday. Some areas are still hard to reach. With the oncoming typhoon, definitely we will see the floodwaters rising again. So people who returned to their homes, but they will have to go back to the evacuation centers or whatever safe place they have identified. This is very difficult, because people were just starting to clean their houses and now they have to leave again. Almost 300 people are dead. This is my city. I have never seen it like this.

They call the new storm a ‘super-typhoon’, and people are becoming panicked. Just this afternoon, we received an SMS saying that the super-typhoon will hit by 9 p.m. tonight. Then we received another SMS saying it will hit Manila by 5 p.m. It creates a lot of fear and panic.

We need to teach people what to do to prepare for the coming super-typhoon. They need to move to a safer ground. They shouldn’t wait for the strong winds and floods, that will be too late. They have to follow government warnings. Survival steps, prepare water, prepare food that will cover for one or two days. The electricity company has already said there will be cut off in electricity. There is a high level of awareness, and the government units are doing their best to prepare. I hope there are no deaths this time.
The biggest need right now is for food, safe water and emergency shelter, especially since it’s raining again. People had been sent back home, because the schools were being used as shelters. Children have to go back to school. Classes had been cancelled for a week already. But now we will need emergency shelter again, mainly tarpaulins. Families have yet to rebuild their homes.

The urban poor are the worst affected. They live in housing made of salvaged material, plywood from the garbage dump, tarpaulin, sheets of advertising paper – flimsy shelters, and it’s very easy for strong winds to destroy them. I was really shocked.

Two days ago I visited one area. One family had a shelter barely larger than two metres by two metres made of salvaged material. As many as 10-14 people lived in this. They have to take turns sleeping, some during the night, some during the day. And then they were hit by the typhoon. For me, it was so depressing, because even before the disaster they were living in such a horrible condition, and the floods made it worse.
The urban poor eat only twice a day, and have very poor quality food, maybe just plain rice and soy sauce. At times, they scavenge food from the garbage, but they can’t now, because everything is contaminated by the flood.

CARE is distributing drinking water and food that will last them for a week. We are also distributing emergency supplies like blankets, jerry cans to store water, and plastic tarpaulins.

One man said, we need assistance, my wife is sick. She was doing the cleaning after the floods, because a lot of mud and debris were in the households. It is the responsibility of the women to take care of the children and clean the house. They have to get food and take care of the children, and the children are getting sick. The requests for medical assistance is increasing.

It has been a long week. I think of those families tonight. I watch the news and the path of the new typhoon. The rain is getting harder.

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