The Philippines was hit by Typhoon Rai, locally named Odette, on 16 December 2021. Typhoon Rai brought destruction and hardship to some of the most vulnerable communities already greatly suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Typhoon Rai made initial landfall in Siargao Island, province of Surigao del Norte in Caraga region, northern Mindanao on 16 December 2021. It carried gusts up to 270 km/h with maximum sustained winds of 195 km/h near the centre making it the strongest storm to make landfall in the Philippines this year. The trail of the Typhoon Rai crossed the Philippine archipelago from Caraga to Eastern and Central Visayas and Palawan. It made nine landfalls in Surigao del Norte, Dinagat Islands, Southern Leyte, Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental and Palawan. Tropical Cyclone Wind Signals (TCWS) up to level 4 were hoisted in many provinces across northern Mindanao and Visayas Island group, indicating destructive typhoon-force winds.
At the time of publishing, information is emerging about the impact of the cyclone. At its peak strength, Typhoon Rai is expected to have caused widespread damage to high-risk structures made of light materials, damaging shelter, livelihoods, agriculture and infrastructure. Initial reports by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) triangulated also by other agencies indicate that Typhoon Rai has brought severe flooding and rain-induced landslides; Bohol has reported flooding up to roof top level as of 17 December. Communication, power lines and water supply have been widely disrupted. Assessment efforts are further challenged by the lack of access to many of the affected areas due to the devastation caused by the typhoon. The typhoon struck sections of northern Mindanao, an island that has experienced decades of unrest.
Ongoing assessment by PRC will unravel the full extent of the effects and damage. The latest government figures indicate 130,128 families or 477,614 people affected in 1,417 barangays in Regions V, VI, VII, VIII, X, XI, Caraga and MIMAROPA - reported by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and Department of Social Welfare and Development – Disaster Response Operations Monitoring and Information Center (DSWD - DROMIC). Due to power disruptions and intermittent signals, it has been challenging to obtain further details from the ground. Hence, these reported numbers are expected to increase significantly. Pre-emptively 332,855 people were evacuated, and at the time of writing 1,603 evacuation centres hosted 77,494 families (289,049 individuals). Initial estimated number of people living in the affected areas is 15.9 million, of which 9.1 million people are live in the worst affected areas (AHA Center).
PRC escalated preparedness and mobilized the National Headquarters and chapters in the predicted path of the typhoon Rai as of 13 December ahead of the landfall. A total of 4,340 staff and volunteers have been mobilized for evacuations, search and rescue, assessment, relief, welfare, health, and water sanitation and hygiene (WASH) activities. PRC has provided 12,952 hot meals, hygiene promotion to 177 individuals, psychological first aid to 149 individuals, blood pressure taking to 149 individuals, assisted 11 people through search and rescue and first aid, and established 25 Child Friendly Spaces in evacuation centres.
Typhoon Rai is the 15th tropical cyclone for 2021 in the Philippines, which on average experience 20 tropical cyclones each year. The ongoing typhoon season, northeast monsoon and shear lines continue to affect the Philippines, potentially intensifying the adverse weather effects. La Niña also continues to affect the Tropical Pacific likely until March 2022 according to PAGASA. La Niña increases the likelihood of above normal rainfall, subsequent flooding and landslides. Therefore, there is a risk of a significant increase in the vulnerability of people left without suitable shelter and livelihood. The disruption to agricultural production will also impact communities’ food security over the coming months as this is the planting season for crops.