Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Thousands still need aid in wake of typhoons in RP

MANILA, Philippines - Emergency relief efforts continue for people displaced by two back-to-back typhoons that wreaked havoc across large parts of the eastern and northern Philippines.

The storms displaced more than 400,000 people, the vast majority of whom have yet to return home, the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) reported.

Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, also chairman of the NDCC, said medicine, food and aid workers had been airlifted to areas in northern Luzon, devastated by Storm Chan-hom, which made landfall on 7 May, dumping heavy rains and causing landslides that killed 43 people.

It also displaced more than 161,020 people in 51 towns, six cities and 11 provinces in Luzon, the country’s largest island.

Of this number, more than 4,000 remain in government-run evacuation centres, mostly schools, the NDCC said on 11 May, while the majority are still staying with family and friends.

"The damage was massive," Teodoro told IRIN, shortly after flying over Bolinao, a devastated coastal town in northern Pangasinan Province where many of the deaths occurred, with wooden houses blown away or partially damaged.

He saw at least 12 bodies being retrieved by rescuers in some flooded areas, he said, while fallen electrical posts still blocked many roads. The military's 7th Infantry Division, he said, had been bussed to Bolinao to help clear the debris and back up rescuers.

"There were many casualties because even if we warned them of the typhoon in advance, many in the coastal areas didn't have anywhere to go and just reinforced their wooden homes and battened down the hatches," he said.

"The soldiers and police have arrived; they are clearing roads of debris," he said. Previous disaster Chan-hom blew into the Philippines just days after tropical depression "Crising" and typhoon Kujira battered the eastern Bicol region and nearby provinces on 2 May, leaving 33 people dead and displacing 246,170, according to the NDCC.

Of that total, more than 3,000 remain in government-run shelters, while the rest are either staying with friends or relatives, the agency said. Teodoro said the agriculture sector was the worst hit by Chan-hom, with Pangasinan suffering the most. Quirino Province in Central Luzon was the worst hit in terms of damage to infrastructure.

The total cost of the damage wrought by Chan-hom has surpassed US$16 million, with more than 23,000 homes totally or partially damaged by floods or landslides. "The president has directed us to speed up emergency efforts. The people need food, water and tarpaulins for temporary shelters and medicines," Teodoro said.

"Although there are sufficient stocks, we are projecting that relief efforts will take a long time unfortunately," he said.

Gwendolyn Pang, Philippine National Red Cross secretary-general, said its emergency response unit (ERU) and more than 170 volunteers were helping with relief work.

Red Cross volunteers are also monitoring possible disease outbreak in camps, as scattered rains have persisted even as the storms have left the Philippines.

The state weather bureau said the three storms, as well as a tropical depression that proceeded them, ushered in the early arrival of the annual typhoon season, which kills tens of thousands and causes widespread damage. About 20 typhoons strike the Philippines every year. (IRIN)Link:http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=84340

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