Just a few weeks after Super Typhoon Goni made landfall on the morning of November 11, 2020, Typhoon Vamco hit the Philippines. These tropical storms have destroyed homes, lives, livelihoods, essential infrastructure and families. Without a doubt, the results of these storms have been calamitously tragic. However, NGOs provide inspiration and hope in their work for the victims of these tropical storms. NGOs have saved thousands in the Philippines.
VAMCO and Goni’s Destruction
On November 1, 2020, super Typhoon Goni made landfall on Catanduanes’ island before moving north-west over Manila with reported wind speeds of 140mph. Goni – locally referred to as “Rolly”- is one of the most powerful storms to hit the Philippines in over a decade. A few days after the storm hit the Philippines, the damage was staggering: reports determined that the storm killed 16 people, demolished thousands of homes, destroyed tens of thousands of farmers’ crops (estimated damage of $36 million to crops alone) and affected over 2 million people.
Although less intense, Typhoon Vamco had winds measured at 90mph when it made landfall in Patnanungan. Although hard to separate the damage from these two storms, reports stated that Typhoon Vamco – locally known as Ulysses – has killed at least 67 people, cut power to millions, caused 100,000 evacuations and destroyed over 26,000 homes.
Flooding Exasperates the Catastrophe
Unfortunately, as the government can better assess the damages and missing people, and gather an overall better understand of the situation in the coming weeks and months, the financial damage and number of people displaced and killed will grow. However, what might prove to enlarge the numbers more than a better understanding of the situation is the flooding and significant landslides.
As of Nov. 18, the flooding is the worst in recent memory and has affected eight regions and 3 million people, with 70 dead. Two-story-high flooding that has caused power outages has either separated many from their homes or trapped them on their roofs, further disrupting rescue efforts. Although flooding has receded, many villages are still only reachable through the air.
Perhaps the worst affected area is the Cagayan Valley in northeast Luzon; of the 28 towns in the Cagayan province, 24 are underwater from severe flooding. Explaining this disproportionality in flood damage is the fact that a dam in the Cagayan Valley, the Magat Dam, had seven of its gates break open following the storm, causing mass amounts of water to pour into the valley (the dam released near two Olympic sized pools of water per second). Here, over 20 people have died while affecting nearly 300,000 people as what looks like a brown sea of dirty water and debris submerges the valley.
NGOs Step Up for Thousands
In the face of all this destruction, one can find hope in the work of NGOs. NGOs have saved thousands in the Philippines who were either trapped on rooftops or in evacuation centers after losing everything they have ever owned.
For instance, CARE is an organization providing aid during the flooding. It is primarily working in Amulung and Gattaran, assisting in rescue efforts and providing resources such as food, hygiene products, shelter repair kits and sanitation materials.
The Philippine Red Cross is deploying utility vehicles to ferry thousands so that they do not become stranded in flooded towns. Stories have even surfaced of Red Cross workers treading through floodwater with torches searching for stragglers and missing people. The organization provides relief materials to those it does save including tents, generators, food, cooking equipment and tarps. Additionally, as a preventative measure, the Philippine Red Cross evacuated people and animals to evacuation centers while also prepositioning emergency response teams in vulnerable areas.
UNICEF has also done life-saving work. Just a day before Vamco made landfall, UNICEF launched “its Super Typhoon Goni/Rolly appeal amounting to $3.7 million.” With this amount raised, UNICEF has supported the most vulnerable communities in gaining access to water, sanitation, hygiene, nutrition, education, health and protection services.
Vamco and Goni are tragedies that have negatively affected countless lives through displacement, death and the destruction of their home and valuables. Nonetheless, the optimist can find inspiration in the fact that: NGOs have saved thousands in the Philippines.
– Vincenzo Caporale
Photo: Wikipedia Commons