CRS emergency relief activities are underway after Typhoon Hagupit struck the Philippines on Saturday, December 6. While the scale of damage across the country remains to be seen at this early stage, as many as 25 people have died, and fears loom of potential floods and landslides following the days of heavy rain.
CRS teams have been carrying out assessments in the affected areas of Samar, the island where the storm made landfall. The immediate needs include food, shelter materials, and water and sanitation. CRS teams are distributing some of the 2,000 kits that arrived in Borongan in eastern Samar. They will support the local Church's response to the most vulnerable people in the coming days and weeks.
In Samar's municipalities of Taft, Can-Avid and Dolores, 30% to 60% of homes—many built with light materials like bamboo and plywood—were damaged or destroyed. The storm's wind pulled the roofs from many houses. Many families need tarps and other materials to protect them from the elements.
CRS shelters withstood the storm
"I was afraid that the entire roof was going to blow off," says Anna Hrybyk of her home in Palo, just south of Tacloban. Hrybyk is a CRS program manager working in the Philippines. "The next morning when I went out to communities where CRS works, I couldn't believe it: My two-story cement house had roof damage, but none of the shelters CRS built after last year's Super Typhoon Haiyan had roof damage."
Quality construction is essential for community resilience. The transitional shelters CRS is helping communities build as part of Typhoon Haiyan recovery are designed to resist heavy storms. The buildings use local materials, and the designs are adaptable to people's changing lives.
"CRS has taught us to build a stronger house," says Benedicto Militante, Sr., a resident of Palo who received support from CRS to rebuild his home, which was destroyed in the November 8, 2013, typhoon.
Quick relief response in Samar
In Samar, however, the storm—downgraded from a super typhoon to a Category 3 storm by the time it made landfall—cut a swath of destruction through the central part of the island, including the remote town of Borongan. CRS has 120 permanent staff members in Samar who have been part of the Haiyan emergency recovery effort. They quickly responded to those affected by Typhoon Hagupit.
Strong local church and community partnerships
"We are in a good position to help," says Josh Kyller, CRS' coordinator of the typhoon response. "We also have strong connections with the local Church network.
In the hours before the typhoon, CRS teams helped evacuate some of the 1 million people who fled the coastal areas to higher ground, seeking shelter in churches, schools and designated evacuation centers.
Many attribute the low death toll to better preparedness and the experience of last year's typhoon, which killed more than 6,000 people. This time, more than 1.2 million people heeded evacuation warnings and got out of the storm's path before it made landfall.
CRS has worked in the Philippines for 50 years. We have a long-standing network of Filipino partners, primarily the local Catholic Church, and community relationships in the affected areas. Because of this, recovery efforts after last year's Typhoon Haiyan have seen remarkable progress in just the first year. More than 40,000 people have benefited from urgent relief assistance. The rebuilding of their homes, jobs and lives is well underway.