Philippines Typhoon Hagupit Relief Effort Readied

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CRS is helping some of the most vulnerable communities in coastal Tacloban to get to a safe space ahead of Super Typhoon Hagupit. Photo by Vilma Horca/Catholic Relief Services
CRS is helping some of the most vulnerable communities in coastal Tacloban to get to a safe space ahead of Super Typhoon Hagupit. Photo by Vilma Horca/Catholic Relief Services
As Typhoon Hagupit, known locally as Typhoon Ruby, crosses over the Philippines, Catholic Relief Services emergency teams and relief supplies are at the ready for deployment as soon as conditions allow. Please help the typhoon relief effort by donating to CRS now.

CRS has committed an initial $100,000 for an emergency response that will expand as needs, and conditions on the ground, become clear. Our prepositioned stock of supplies include shelter materials, and water and sanitation kits for at least 2,000 families. They will dispatch from Davao and Cebu to Samar once shipping resumes.

"We have 300 staff working in Leyte and Samar, and they are doing well overall," says Renee Lambert, CRS head of office in Tacloban. "Our top priority is ensuring their safety and the safety of their families."

CRS teams will travel on Monday and Tuesday from the agency's offices in Manila, Davao, Tacloban and Samar to evaluate the areas of greatest need.

"Once Typhoon Hagupit passes over the Philippines, we will immediately send out assessment teams," says Lambert. "Depending on what they find, we will determine which response is most relevant and appropriate. In a storm this unpredictable, we must have several contingencies."

Delivering aid may prove challenging: At least 92 domestic flights have been canceled, airports in the affected areas of southeastern Luzon and eastern Visayas are closed, and ferry services have been suspended in all ports.

Estimates put the number of people affected by Typhoon Hagupit at approximately 4.5 million, across 14 provinces. The affected areas include the islands of Leyte and Samar, which were devastated by last year's Super Typhoon Haiyan. That storm claimed more than 6,000 lives and left entire towns in ruins.

In the hours before the current typhoon, CRS teams helped evacuated some of the 1 million people living in coastal areas to higher ground. Safe shelter includes churches, schools and designated evacuation centers.

The Catholic Church, which has a vast presence in the Philippines, is a major source of refuge. In Palo alone—a city hit hard by last year's Typhoon Haiyan—10,000 people are taking refuge in churches and parish compounds. Local church volunteers are preparing food and living supplies for 2,000 families. On the neighboring island of Samar, also devastated by last year's typhoon, 804 people have taken refuge at the bishop's residence in Borongan.

"Along the coasts of Samar and Tacloban, fishing boats were being tied down, roofs and ceilings being nailed and people were going toward higher ground," says Rolando Wallusche, CRS' technical advisor for emergency water, sanitation and hygiene in Tacloban. "We even saw people climbing up limestone formations to caves. People are taking this seriously. They are preparing."

Idalia Amaya, a CRS program officer, is overseeing the evacuations. "As I was helping with evacuations, one of the first things families packed, even before their important documents, were items tied to their faith: Santo Niño, Bibles and rosaries," she says. "You know when people move their Santo Niño, they're taking evacuation orders seriously."

The Category 3 storm started to cross the Philippines on the night of December 6. Typhoon Hagiput is expected to hover over the country for 3 days, with sustained winds of 108 mph and heavy rain. Concerns are high regarding the impact of flooding and mudslides—especially in a mountainous country with highly populated urban areas. Heavy rains and winds have already caused power disruptions in Eastern Samar and Tacloban.

CRS is well positioned to launch an immediate and potentially comprehensive response. Having worked in the country for 50 years, we have a network of long-standing Filipino partners, primarily with the local Catholic Church, and community relationships in the affected areas. Because of this, recovery efforts following last year's Typhoon Haiyan have seen remarkable impact in just the first year. More than 40,000 people have benefited from urgent relief assistance. The rebuilding their homes, jobs and lives is well underway.