A few days before the start of what was anticipated as the “recovery holidays” in the Philippines, Typhoon Rai – the most devastating of the 15 tropical cyclones to hit the country this year – has destroyed much of the archipelago, causing serious damage. human and material losses. The damage to the local population already amounts to about 400 fatalities and almost a million displaced people. Experts explain that the speed with which this storm intensified exceeded all predictions. The UN agency for climate change warns that the frequency with which these types of natural disasters occur has increased.
“The situation evolved too fast. Our models were unable to predict how the storm intensified; it surpassed all of our predictions, ”explains Nikos Peñaranda, a meteorologist specializing in storms at the Philippine National Bureau of Meteorology.
According to the latest balance provided by the National Police this Wednesday, 375 people have lost their lives, 56 are still missing and 500 have been injured. More than 417,000 people are housed in evacuation centers and more than 244,000 with host families. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 1.8 million people are affected. The Department of Social Welfare and Development has stressed that the problems of internet access are representing “a huge challenge when it comes to collecting data on the affected population.”
The Secretary of National Defense, Delfin Lorenzana, ordered on Monday to deploy all available resources to bring essential goods to the affected areas. Thousands of military, police and coast guards are delivering food, drinking water and medical supplies to survivors, who are struggling to find essentials.
The United Nations has described as “absolute devastation” the areas most affected by Rai, such as the tropical paradises of Siargao and Bohol, which have been unrecognizable after the floods caused by the typhoon. These popular tourist destinations were expecting to see an increase in visitors during the holidays following the recent relaxation of measures to combat the pandemic. The owners of businesses focused on tourism hoped to alleviate the impact that international travel restrictions have had with the arrival of Filipino families, who often choose Christmas to visit the most famous beaches in the country. However, dozens of flights remain suspended and travel by land and sea has been banned in the worst affected regions.
President Rodrigo Duterte visited Bohol (where an estimated 96 people have died) over the weekend. The island’s governor, Arthur Yap, continues to ask the government to send aid as soon as possible, warning that, almost a week after the typhoon struck, most of the 1.2 million inhabitants of Bohol are still without electricity and telephone network. In an interview with DZBB radio station on Tuesday, Yap thanked Duterte for his visit, but warned that “if they don’t send us money for food, the soldiers should come because looting will start soon.” He affirms that the 35,000 food packages that he had been promised – a figure that would continue to be scarce for the 375,000 families that live in the province – have not yet arrived.
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Despite the fact that Duterte has recognized that the Philippines has “enormous debts” for the management of the covid-19 crisis, the president is trying to release funds worth 4,000 million Philippine pesos (about 71.2 million of euros) to mitigate the damage. He has promised that 2,000 million pesos (35.6 million euros) would go to local authorities and the other 2,000 million to aid for survivors.
Typhoon Odette, the name it receives in the Philippines, made landfall at least nine times between December 16 and 17, forcing the inhabitants of 35 provinces, distributed throughout the ten island groups that make up the Philippine archipelago, to evacuate. During its relentless advance, which caused torrential rains and gusts of wind that reached 210 kilometers per hour, the typhoon uprooted coconut trees, knocked down power poles and destroyed more than 61,900 homes.
“We are fighting a catastrophe. It’s Haiyan again, ”says Richard Gordon, head of the Red Cross in the Philippines. Super Typhoon Haiyan was one of the most intense tropical cyclones in modern history, and the deadliest in the annals of the Philippines, killing a tragic 6,300 in November 2013.
In the past three decades, the Philippines has recorded at least 205 tropical cyclones, the highest number among all Asian nations, according to the EM-DAT atmospheric disaster database from the University of Leuven. Virtually all have had fatalities and caused material damage estimated in millions of dollars. In that period of time, China, the second country most affected by these types of storms, has registered 139.
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