December 5, 2012
While the residents of Mindanao were still fast asleep Tuesday morning, Typhoon Bopha approached the southeastern coastline of the Philippines, packing 130mph of wind and heavy rain. The powerful winds and rain were unlike anything I had ever seen before.
Despite being a much stronger typhoon than Typhoon Washi, which killed more than 1,200 people– most of them children -last December,the fact that people were vigilant made all the difference in this storm.The day before it hit, I watched as the people of Mindanao prepared for the arrival of Typhoon Bopha, or Pablo as it is known locally. Families stocked up on food, water and other essential supplies in stores while others packed up their most precious belongings and headed off to evacuation centres all over the island. This is stark contrast from the scene last year, where many failed to heed warnings from authorities to evacuate.
“I’m happy that my parents brought my siblings and me here before the storm,” a child at an evacuation centre in Cagayan de Oro told me. “We feel safe here from the storm.” Cagayan de Oro was one of the worst-hit cities in Mindanao after Typhoon Washi. Many children displayed signs of distress following that disaster and required psychosocial support from the government and aid agencies like Save the Children.
Indeed, it is a relief to see that both children and adults were more vigilant ahead of this typhoon, the worst storm to hit the Philippines this year. Mindanao does not experience typhoons often, and as a result, the residents here are less prepared than others.
Still, immediate relief like food, water, medicine and other household items are needed.Water, sanitation and hygiene, or WASH, is my area of expertise and we know that water supplies may be contaminated, and with large swathes of Mindanao flooded and without electricity, assessing the extent of the damage and bringing water trucks to evacuation centres will be tricky for the authorities and aid agencies alike.
Save the Children has been working in the Philippines since 1981 and has decades of experience responding to emergencies in the Philippines. We have mounted large-scale emergency responses to Typhoon Washi in 2011 and Typhoon Ketsana in 2009.