Typhoon Bopha in the Philippines: ‘It Looks Like a Tsunami Hit’

from Catholic Relief Services
Published on 07 Dec 2012 View Original

After Typhoon Bopha collided into the Philippines, two things became clear: the damage is much worse than expected. So is the death toll.

“It looks like a tsunami hit. It’s just complete and total destruction. Whole hillsides were washed away in flash floods,” said Joe Curry, CRS country representative in the Philippines.

The official death toll now stands at more than 450, with at least 550 people missing. Tens of thousands of people have lost their homes since Bopha struck Tuesday, with winds that reached about 100 miles per hour. Many are crowded into evacuation centers or staying with relatives, while rescuers and family members search for victims through knee-deep mud.

“I’ve talked to colleagues who’ve worked in disaster response for ten years, and they say the devastation in the Compostela Valley is among the worst they’ve ever seen in the Philippines,” said Curry.

The Compostela Valley, rich in natural resources and hardworking people, wasn’t supposed to be hit by Bopha. Located on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, the valley is home to mountains, lakes and a host of natural attractions. The forest and mountains usually protect the valley from typhoons. But the ferocious winds and flash flooding hit the are with a vengeance. “In one municipality there, New Bataan, an upland lake overflowed like a waterfall onto the town and its residents. The survivors are completely traumatized. Roughly 80% of the housing was destroyed. The town’s water supply is cut off. People need everything—food, water, and shelter,” said Curry.

CRS’ Immediate and Ongoing Response

CRS will soon begin distributing basic necessities like water, hygiene kits and sleeping mats to 1,250 families in Compostela Valley, where more than 10,000 homes have been damaged. People will also receive tarps for emergency shelter.

In Davao Oriental, another heavily damaged province, CRS will continue sending out teams to look at the destruction and help people get through the tragedy. “People are in such a state of despair,” said Curry.

While CRS remains focused on humanitarian needs, the Catholic Church in the Philippines has been offering spiritual solace to people as they bury their family members. “It’s been quite remarkable to watch the dedication of the local priests and bishops comforting people in an environment like this,” said Curry.