Biggest storm of 2013 set to hit Philippines
GENEVA, 7 November 2013 – The Philippines’ comprehensive disaster risk management strategy has swung into action as the country braces itself for the arrival tomorrow of the planet’s strongest storm this year
As super typhoon Haiyan bears down on the Philippines, the country’s President, Mr. Benigno Aquino, has directed maximum efforts to achieve the government’s zero casualty goal, which lies at the heart of the country’s disaster planning.
A series of risk management and preparedness measures have clicked into action across regions and provinces that potentially lie in the typhoon’s path, including the planned evacuation of almost two million.
Metro Manila and several regions, including Northern Mindanao, Caraga, Central, Eastern and Western Visayas, Bicol, Calabarzon and Mimaropa are all on ‘blue alert’, with half of disaster management and civil defence personnel already at their posts ahead of the 25th storm to hit the country this year.
The province of Bohol, already affected by an earthquake in mid-October, lies in the storm's path. A ‘red alert’ has been issued to move tens of thousands of people already displaced from tents into more secure accommodation.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said the tropical storm is projected to make landfall over Samar or Leyte provinces by Friday afternoon, local time, and may develop into a super typhoon, equivalent to a category 4 hurricane.
Evacuation centres, such as gymnasiums, schools or multipurpose halls, have been identified. School classes have been closed and local government officials are monitoring residents, who live on riverbanks and landslide and flood-prone areas.
“They should be transferred to safe places immediately with the onset of floods and landslide after the arrival of the typhoon,” said Flor Gaviola, of the Office of Civil Defence.
Governor of Albay province, in Bicol region, Mr Joey Salceda, sent a text message to local citizens declaring a ‘state of heightened alert and close monitoring’. “This is in order to ensure disaster avoidance and to achieve zero casualty,” the Governor said.
Albay’s Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council has activated a series of preparedness activities including evacuation, distribution of rice to families who have had to move and preparation of assorted crop seeds for farmers whose livelihoods are likely to be destroyed.
The many preparedness measures launched include: 300 coast guard boats on standby for rescue; the activation of the national police’s disaster incident management task group; USD4.4 million of emergency relief on standby from the Department of Social Welfare and Development; and Philippine Red Cross rescue equipment, including rubber boats, generator sets, fuel and vehicles, set for deployment.
The Joint Typhoon Warning Centre in Hawaii says the storm will be stronger than the one which hit Mindanoa in December 2012 killing over 1,000 people and leaving thousands homeless.
The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) has long supported national efforts to improve disaster risk management in Philippines.
UNISDR Champion and Philippines Senator, Ms Loren Legarda, last month marked 2013 International Day for Disaster Reduction with the launch of a national Resilience Award to inspire local leadership to build safer communities.
The Senator has also proposed new legislation to tackle the problem of land degradation. As chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, Sen. Legarda said that 45 percent, or 13 million hectares, of arable land are either moderately or severely eroded due to massive deforestation and adoption of unsustainable land management practices in upland areas.