UN agencies prepare emergency response for typhoon in Philippines

By on December 6, 2014

Satellite image from DOST PAGASA
Satellite image from DOST PAGASA

UNITED NATIONS — The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said Friday that Typhoon Hagupit, also known as Ruby, is expected to cross the center of the Philippines over the weekend, and UN agencies are making preparations for emergency response before the massive storm lands in the island country.

“The typhoon is forecast to follow a course north of the one followed by Typhoon Haiyan last year,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said at a daily news briefing here. “The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) said that Typhoon Hagupit has triggered one of the largest evacuations ever seen during peace time in the country.”

“Some 10 million people in the central Philippines are at risk of flooding, storm surges and strong winds, with more than 30 million people potentially feeling the impact of the typhoon,” Dujarric said.

For its part, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in the country has activated full preparedness mode to assist children and families, he said, adding that the World Food Program (WFP) also has food stocks available and staff on standby.

Haiyan is the biggest typhoon recorded in almost a century, and according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as it slammed into the Philippines in the early hours of Nov. 8, 2013, it killed thousands and affected nearly 9.8 million people, while displacing some four million people and destroying 500,000 homes.

The storm also devastated the country’s infrastructure, hospitals, schools and public services, causing 12 billion U.S. dollars in estimated damages while laying waste to the agricultural sector.

One-point-one million tonnes of crops suffered severe damage within hours of the super storm’s landfall. Coconut farmers, for instance, lost some 44 million trees to the storm, a debilitating blow to their livelihood. Coconut trees take six to eight years to become productive again. At the same time, nearly two-thirds of the fishing communities lost their productive assets.