Philippines rushes aid to displaced storm survivors
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Philippine authorities and aid agencies rushed relief supplies Wednesday, December 10, to hundreds of thousands of people displaced by a powerful typhoon, as survivors sifted through debris to rebuild their lives.
Military cargo planes will make 8 deliveries to worst-hit Samar, a poor farming island in the Visayas, while two Red Cross convoys will deliver thousands of food packs, water purifiers, blankets, and hygiene kits, officials said. (READ: Food, shelter assistance badly needed in Samar)
"We are catching up on food delivery, especially in the far-flung areas, isolated areas in the mountains.... We will strive to deliver to these areas today," Social Welfare Minister Corazon Soliman said in a televized briefing.
An estimated 390,000 people, mostly in Samar, need food and temporary shelter assistance, Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon told Agence France-Presse.
Typhoon Ruby (international name: Hagupit) left over two dozen people dead, the Red Cross said, after it slammed the central region with 210-kilometer (130-mile)-per-hour winds over the weekend and brushed past the capital Manila.
Over a million fled to shelters ahead of the storm as authorities avoided a repeat of the devastation by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) last year, in which 6,300 people died while 1,061 more are still missing.
Nearly 1.7 million people sheltered in evacuation centers as Hagupit passed their areas, according to government figures, and aid agencies hailed the strategy as a template for coping with future disasters. (READ: #RubyPH: One of 'largest peacetime evacuations' in PH history)
Gordon said there would be "sporadic" increases in the Ruby death toll, which it currently pegs at more than 20, but the final count will be "nowhere near" Haiyan, the strongest storm to hit land ever recorded.
Interior Minister Manuel Roxas II earlier said at least 200,000 people on Samar island needed help. (READ: Roxas: Ruby-hit towns, cities will get relief goods)
Roxas, who is overseeing the government's typhoon response, said in the same briefing that airports and main roadways had been cleared for the relief operation.
A "human conveyor belt" was set up in one area to replace a damaged bridge that blocked aid delivery, Roxas said.
After the wave of food aid, the Red Cross will deliver 10,000 galvanized iron roof sheets to those who lost their homes, Gordon said.
Hagupit totally damaged 6,200 houses and partially damaged 7,300 others, Roxas said.
In Catbalogan, a major city on Samar island's western side, thousands have started to sift through debris under the hot sun to rebuild their homes, mayor Stephany Uy-Tan told Agence France-Presse.
"Daily existence here is a struggle for those who are affected," she said.
But food relief from the national government had begun to arrive as roads were cleared were debris, she added.
Before Ruby struck, close to 21,000 people, or one-fourth of the city's population, were moved to shelters in an unprecedented evacuation effort, she said.
"We had a long time to prepare, that's very important," Uy-Tan said.
Cebu relief hub
In Cebu, various organizations and individuals heeded the call of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for volunteers to help repack relief goods at the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC), Petrone, and Sacred Heart.
Business groups – like Jollibee Group Foundation, SM Foundation, BPI Globe BanKO, and 7-Eleven – have also provided food for volunteers doing disaster relief operations.
The provincial government of Cebu also continues to give food for the volunteers.
The DSWD field office in Central Visayas reiterated its call for interested groups and individuals to share their time at the repacking centers. They may coordinate with Jo Belontindos at 09391748342.
Since December 6, a total of 1,752 volunteers have trooped to the 3 repacking hubs. These hubs are the pick-up and delivery points for relief supplies for typhoon survivors in Eastern Visayas. – with a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com