Typhoon Hagupit Rains Menace Islands in the Philippines

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Millions of Filipinos awoke Sunday to the news that the death toll and damage caused by Typhoon Hagupit, known locally as Ruby, was not as catastrophic as first expected. But the slow-moving system, which made landfall late Saturday on the island of Samar, is expected to bring more rain and heavy flooding and poses a risk for deadly landslides. Some remote rural areas have been cut off and not yet reached. Please help with our relief response by donating to CRS today.

CRS teams, which hunkered down overnight to wait out the storm, fanned out in the early morning hours and discovered that thousands of shelters built after last year's deadly Super Typhoon Haiyan had withstood the storm.

"The structures fared well due to the typhoon-resilient building techniques our engineers and construction foremen used when repairing homes and constructing new shelters," says Josh Kyller, who has overseen CRS' recovery work after Haiyan and now leads the response in Samar.

On Monday, CRS teams traveled overland to the east and west coasts of Samar, the area hardest hit by Typhoon Hagupit. Attempts today to reach remote and still cut-off areas were quashed by roads blocked with debris and fallen trees.

"The road situation across the board in Samar is not good," says Kyller. "We're hoping to get to the places we want to go tomorrow. The Philippine government was out with heavy equipment this afternoon to begin clearing the roads."

The storm, which was downgraded from a super typhoon to a Category 3 storm on Saturday, left a swath of destruction through the central part of Samar, including the remote town of Borongan. CRS has 120 people in Samar who were working on recovery efforts from last year's Haiyan, and who are now ready to assess the greatest needs on the ground and respond.

"We are in a good position to help," Kyller adds. "We also have strong connections with the local Church network."

Over the coming days and weeks, CRS will support the local Church's response to the most vulnerable affected by the storm. Prepositioned supplies, including shelter materials, and water and sanitation kits for at least 2,000 families, will ship from the port of Cebu on Monday. They are expected to reach Samar this week.

"This first shipment will have enough supplies to help 2,000 families, but we can funnel more goods up quickly once we have information about the hardest-hit places and the needs," Kyller says.

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

The Catholic Church, which has a vast presence in the Philippines, has been a major source of refuge. In Palo alone—a city hit hard by last year's Typhoon Haiyan—10,000 people took refuge in churches and parish halls.

"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 were taking this seriously."

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 network of long-standing Filipino partners, primarily 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 of their homes, jobs and lives is well underway.