Philippines: ICRC readying typhoon relief operation

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PHILIPPINES-TYPHOON/ 2014 Strong winds and waves brought by Typhoon Hagupit © Reuters

Typhoon Hagupit (local name Ruby) made landfall in the central Philippines on the evening of Saturday, 6 December, hitting the town of Dolores, on eastern Samar, with sustained winds of up to 195 km/h. The storm is progressing west by northwest across the country, with intense rains, flooding and landslides expected.

As the typhoon was bearing down, the ICRC sent a team of experts to Catbalogan, capital of Samar Province, to assess urgent needs. So far the staff have visited Guiuan, Tacloban and Catbaloga towns, where they found roofs blown off, trees brought down and electricity and communication lines cut. The number of casualties is unknown, and ICRC teams have not yet been able to assess damage in harder-hit areas.

"It's too early to give an overall picture of the damage wrought by Typhoon Hagupit," said Vincent Ballon, the team leader. "We hope to reach remote, mountainous areas of north-eastern Samar soon, but for the moment these areas are inaccessible due to road blocks.

"People there may need food, clean water, and health care. If houses have been damaged or washed away by floods, temporary shelters will be essential."

With other islands along the typhoon's expected trajectory, the ICRC will send additional teams tomorrow to Samar, Mazbate and the Sorsogon province of Southern Luzon. The organization is also dispatching staff to the Philippines from its Geneva headquarters. So far, over 20 trucks loaded with food for 25,000 people, clean water for 5,000 people, and medical supplies have now reached Surigao City, ready to make the crossing to Samar by Tuesday.

The Philippine Red Cross has chapters in all the areas that might be hit by Typhoon Hagupit and has thousands of staff and volunteers on standby. It will be at forefront of efforts to help survivors.
In the chaos resulting from such a disaster, members of the same family can easily become separated, neither knowing whether the other is alive or dead. A webpage has now been created http://familylinks.icrc.org/typhoon-haqupit/ to enable people to declare themselves alive and well and to search for family members whom they have been unable to find following the storm.

Typhoon Hagupit could well affect many of the same people still struggling to recover from the world's worst-ever typhoon, Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the country late last year. Haiyan, which made landfall with 300 km winds and five-metre waves, left communities devastated, lacking food, electricity, water or any means of contacting their relatives. Many survivors remain extremely vulnerable.

Hagupit, or Ruby, hits the Philippines almost exactly two years after Typhoon Bopha, hit Mindanao province, claiming over 1,000 lives.

Some areas likely to be hit by Typhoon Hagupit, or Ruby, such as parts of Samar Island or some parts of Southern Luzon, are also struggling to cope with the consequences of protracted armed conflicts. Focusing its efforts on areas already hit by conflict, the ICRC is ready to launch a joint operation with the Philippine Red Cross and will coordinate closely with other International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement partners, including the International Federation

The Philippine Red Cross has chapters in all the areas that might be hit by Typhoon Hagupit and has thousands of staff and volun

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