Typhoon Bopha Survivors Face Long Road to Recovery

from ACT Alliance
Published on 03 Jan 2013 View Original

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.