Early warnings and evacuations in advance of Typhoon Hagupit (which has since been downgraded to a tropical storm) have saved the lives of countless people in the Philippines. Red Cross volunteers played a critical role in helping to evacuate one million people to safety and is providing hot meals to evacuees. Still, millions more remain at risk as the storm’s onslaught moves westward.
Tropical storm Hagupit continues on its path through the central Philippines—projected to make landfall on six islands as it travels across the Bicol region and southern Luzon—so its impact is still being felt. Alfie Martinez, 38, is among those bracing themselves for the storm. “The waiting is the scary part for us – we cannot relax until we know it has gone and that our houses and our families are safe,” he says.
There is concern that the heavy rains accompanying the typhoon will cause mudslides and flooding across the Metro Manila area. The situation in coastal areas will not be helped by the unusual full-moon high tides which will worsen potential storm surges and dam overflows.
Continuous heavy rains could create volcanic mud flows from the ash being emitted by the active Mayon Volcano in the southern Luzon peninsula. This could cause further population displacement.
An American Red Cross team is on the ground in eastern Leyte, an area that bore the brunt of last year’s Typhoon Haiyan. In Alangalang, where the Red Cross distributed cash grants in the wake of that storm, the team has reported mostly damage to crops – the main source of livelihoods there. Several families in the MacArthur municipality evacuated to a model home, built by the American Red Cross to demonstrate safe construction practices to better withstand typhoons. The families passed the storm safely in that house.
It is too early to make any accurate assessment of the overall humanitarian situation, especially since the storm will continue to ravage the country in the coming days, but in the areas most affected by Typhoon Haiyan last year, it is clear that disaster preparedness saves lives. The importance of preparation cannot be overrated.
The Philippine Red Cross has 430 volunteers on red alert in the areas expected to be impacted in the coming hours and days, as well as medics and water and sanitation teams.
A dedicated Restoring Family Links webpage has been set up to help family members separated by the storm find their loved ones.