LOBOC, Philippines – Troops sped Tuesday to deliver food and water to the typhoon-ravaged islands of the Philippines as charities sought help to help hundreds of thousands left homeless by the deadly storm.
At least 375 people were killed and hundreds injured when Typhoon Rai (local name: Odette) devastated the southern and central regions of the archipelago, wiping out wooden houses, uprooting trees and cutting off electricity across islands.
The United Nations reported “total devastation” in the areas hardest hit by Rai, which hit the country as a super typhoon on Thursday.
“I’ve never seen a typhoon like this in my entire life,” said Catholic Bishop Antonieto Cabajog in Surigao on the northern tip of Mindanao Island.
“To say super is an understatement,” he told a Catholic Church-run news agency.
More than 400,000 people sought refuge in evacuation centers or with relatives, the national civil protection agency said after their homes were damaged or destroyed by the strongest typhoon to hit the country that year.
One of the hardest hit islands was Bohol – known for its beaches, chocolate hills and tiny goblin primates – where at least 94 people have died, Provincial Governor Arthur Yap said on Facebook.
A state of disaster was declared on the island.
There was also widespread destruction on the islands of Siargao, Dinagat and Mindanao, which bore the brunt of the storm with wind speeds of 195 kilometers per hour.
‘All available assets’
Thousands of members of the military, police and coastguards were dispatched to provide food, drinking water and medical supplies to survivors who struggled with basic supplies.
“I have instructed the (military) to use all available means – ships, boats, planes, trucks – to bring relief supplies to the affected areas,” said Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana on Monday.
Heavy machinery – including backhoe loaders and front loaders – were also moved onto the streets.
The Red Cross also flies to the islands of Siargao and Bohol – popular tourist destinations that have had a hard time recovering after restrictions from Covid-19 wiped out visitor numbers.
“The IFRC’s 911 call is helping us to act quickly and do whatever we can to get people and families back on their feet,” said Alberto Bocanegra, director of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Philippines.
The organization has applied for $ 22 million to fund urgent relief and recovery efforts.
The UK has pledged around $ 1 million to the IFRC effort.
Other non-governmental organizations also ask for donations.
Rai hit the Philippines late in the typhoon season: most cyclones develop between July and October.
Scientists have long warned that typhoons will get stronger, and intensify faster, as the world warms up due to man-made climate change.
The Philippines – one of the nations most at risk from the effects of climate change – is hit by an average of 20 storms each year, which typically destroy crops, homes and infrastructure in already impoverished areas.
In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to hit land, leaving more than 7,300 dead or missing.