Philippines Typhoon response

On 4 December 2012, Typhoon Bopha wreaked havoc as it ripped through central Mindanao through Burkidon province, Cagayan de Oro and Illigan City in the Philippines. It has killed 647 people, with another 780 people still missing. Raging waters and mud from the mountains swept through school buildings, covered courts, town halls and health centres; over five million people have been affected; 70,000 homes are damaged and 210,000 people are displaced.

People in the affected community of Lianga

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On 7 December 2012, the Philippine Government declared a National State of Calamity; they are assisting over 133,000 people in 172 evacuation centres.

“This typhoon is of a scale the Philippines has not seen before. We’re talking tens of thousands of homes destroyed across south-eastern and central Mindanao,” said Joe Curry, Philippines Country Representative, Catholic Relief Services (Caritas Australia’s US counterpart).

“People live in fragile housing and when storms like this, a category five typhoon comes through, it wipes out entire communities. We’ve seen flash floods that look tsunami-like; the way they’ve brought down water through hillsides has changed the landscape completely. We’re talking about complete obliteration along coast lines and in interior areas in the mountains.”

The southern provinces of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley have been most severely affected. In the worst hit coastal towns, nearly all the homes were destroyed. Broken bridges, flooding and destroyed roads continue to hamper access and emergency response to these communities. Evacuation shelters are full and many families have been left fighting for survival out in the open with nowhere to go.

Caritas' response

The Caritas network has been working in the Philippines for over 65 years; helping the most vulnerable families is a priority for the Caritas emergency response teams. Emergency relief items such as shelter, food and water, and essential non-food items such as hygiene kits, kitchen sets and blankets are being transported to affected communities.

“This is the 16th typhoon to hit the Philippines this year,” said Jack de Groot, Caritas Australia CEO. “While the country is used to natural disasters and has high disaster preparedness in place, no amount of frequency or planning can alleviate the suffering and devastation a disaster like this brings.”

Cartias Australia and Catholic Relief Services have pledged $1,250,000 for emergency response to Typhoon Bopha. AusAID, through their Humanitarian Partnership Agreement, has already given Caritas $747,000; allowing the rapid distribution of shelter and household items to those most vulnerable.

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