Typhoon Bopha Survivors Face Long Road to Recovery
Thursday, January 03, 2013 • Cathy Gordo, Lutheran World Relief
On the morning of December 4, Warnita Padillo, a 47-year-old mother of three, sat with her family waiting. She had been monitoring radio broadcasts about Typhoon Bopha for days, knowing the storm was heading toward her town on the eastern coast of Mindanao Island in the Philippines.
The Philippines is prone to tropical storms and typhoons and typically experiences about 20 typhoons per year. However, Bopha was exceptionally strong. The 209km-an-hour wind gusts and heavy rain that lashed the island surpassed the strongest winds of Hurricane Sandy by 32km-an-hour. It followed nearly the same path as Typhoon Washi a year earlier.
“The children were frightened. I was frightened as well. I was born in this town but have never experienced that kind of wind in my life,” Padillo said.
As the winds strengthened, she and her husband debated whether to stay in their small wooden house or risk falling trees and electric poles to seek shelter in a neighbour’s larger concrete home.
“When I saw from a hole in my wall my neighbours crossing the street in search of a safer place, I decided to grab my kids and run for the nearest safe place I could think of.” She went to her neighbour’s house, from where she watched a coconut tree fall, destroying her home.
Across town, Bibiana Cerna and her family sheltered in a multipurpose centre recently built by ACT member Lutheran World Relief and by Habitat for Humanity. The simple wooden roof of the local chapel that used to serve as a shelter leaked during storms, drenching everyone inside. Cerna and the 60 families in the multipurpose centre could relax behind the safety of concrete walls.
“We felt safer and we could sleep, even if we knew that the wind was strong outside,” she said.
Bopha would go on to affect more than 5.5 million people. More than 900 people were killed, with a similar number still missing. Nearly 150,000 homes were damaged. Even before the storm retreated to sea, LWR staff began assessing damage, working closely with the United Nations, the Government and other humanitarian organisations.
Padillo is thankful she and her family escaped before their house was destroyed but now faces immense challenges. Her food supply is running dangerously low – she is down to her last kilogramme of rice. After the typhoon, Cerna received rice and a can of sardines from the local district, only enough to feed her family one meal. As her husband relies on calmer seas for his job as a fisherman, he cannot yet return to work.
LWR’s emergency response plan to help families meet long-term recovery needs includes a cash-for-work programme to provide immediate income to families carrying out clean-up work, such as debris clearance. LWR will also help families recover their destroyed livelihoods and support them to rebuild safe homes on flood-safe land.
It is also distributing quilts, personal care kits and other critical relief items, as well as supporting the relief efforts of the Lutheran Church of the Philippines. To date, $1m worth of blankets, quilts, baby-care kits and personal hygiene kits have been dispatched from LWR’s warehouse in the United States.