Region’s Response to Typhoon Haiyan in Philippines

The degree of destruction was impressive.

In the first weeks after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines on November 8, 2013, the American Red Cross along with more than two dozen Red Cross societies from across the globe had mobilized to support the Philippine Red Cross—in logistics, disaster assessment, shelter, health, water and sanitation. Locally, our donors and friends raised and gave funds to join the disaster relief effort.

Generous donors within the California Northwest Region designated at total of $230,000 to the relief effort. Corporate donors also responded, including major gifts from GCX Corporation, Earthstone Construction, LEMO USA, North Bay Association of Realtors, and friends of the Community Foundation Sonoma County. Regional Chief Executive Officer Tim Miller met with members of the Philippine community at the Philippine Community Center in Santa Rosa, and the region activated the Red Cross Restoring Family Links program which works to reunite family members separated following international disasters.

One of our own Dr. Joshua Weil, a board member of the Red Cross Sonoma, Mendocino & Lake Counties Chapter, deployed to the Philippines from December 1-17 through his work with Kaiser Permanente. An emergency room physician at Kaiser in Santa Rosa, Dr. Weil had previously deployed to Sri Lanka following the deadly tsunami of 2004, to Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina, and to Haiti following the earthquake of 2010. When asked what motivates him to go, he says, “I feel like I have a skill set to help in those difficult situations and I like to help people in need.” Dr. Weil’s international deployments have been conducted through Kaiser’s International Relief program and its partnerships. For the Philippine response, he was responsible for organizing nearly 400 volunteers from Kaiser Permanente including contacting and vetting applicants from within Kaiser, determining skills and assets needed, and deciding who would deploy.

He recalls arriving in Manila to a bustling city showing no sense of disaster. On this flight into Tacloban, Dr. Weil first noticed the lush green and blue waters of the region. As his flight descended, though, he recalls, “I started seeing damage to tree tops and devastated buildings.” He then saw the airport; its roof had been blown off during the storm. “The degree of destruction was impressive,” he says of the drive through Tacloban.

With his team, Dr. Weil staffed the emergency room and outpatient clinic at a hospital about a 1.5-hour drive outside of Tacloban. The facility had been widely damaged but was operational; its staff, though, had been allowed to take leave to search for family members and take care of personal needs. Dr. Weil’s visiting medical team primarily treated patients with injuries and illnesses indirectly attributed to the typhoon such as lacerations from run-ins with debris, injuries from falls while rebuilding, infected wounds, and respiratory illnesses, among other maladies. They also staffed daily mobile clinics, visiting neighborhoods around Tacloban and delivering care directly in those locations.

He found similarities between this and previous deployments. The devastation in Sri Lanka following the tsunami was similar though it covered a smaller area, and he said the devastation in Tacloban bore resemblance to Haiti while he noted the Philippine people displayed a high degree of self-sufficiency.

Dr. Weil joined the Board of Directors for the Sonoma, Mendocino & Lake Counties Chapter three years ago. “I like being involved in an organization that has helping people in need during disasters as its mission and purpose,” he says. Prior to joining the board, Dr. Weil was honored as a Real Hero at the Chapter’s Real Heroes Breakfast for his humanitarian efforts in Haiti. He also volunteers for Red Cross First Aid Stations at bike races in the region, as well as conducting preparedness presentations, and other acts of voluntary service.

You can help people affected by disasters like this typhoon, local house fires, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. To make a donation, visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS, or Text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10 to American Red Cross Disaster Relief.