(17/12/2014) On 6 December 2014, typhoon Hagupit made landfall on Eastern Samar, in the East of the Philippines. Welthungerhilfe’s Head of Project in the Philippines, Jürgen Hofmeister, was on the nearby island of Panay at the time and reports about the damage caused.
“The last few days were very emotional”, he says. “There was early warning but we didn’t know anything precisely: Not where it would strike nor how strong it would be. The people in the project area were in a state of turmoil. You could see in their faces the fear of a new disaster. For many, traumatic memories of Haiyan – or Yolanda, as the disastrous typhoon of last year was named – came rising to the surface.” More than four million people in the Philippines lost their homes in November 2013 as a result of the devastating natural disaster.
2013: Typhoon Hayian shook up the administration
The people here took the threat very seriously. The government and the local administrative authorities had also learned from the emergency situation of one year ago. The improved early warning system worked: The population was warned via several channels: radio, telephone and word of mouth. Hundreds of thousands fled into the emergency shelters as a precaution – without chaos or panic.
“We also sent home the construction and craft workers from the projects, secured our office with boards and waited”, says Hofmeister. The storm Hagupit, also known as Ruby, struck Panay island on Sunday at a speed of around 170 kilometres an hour. It destroyed huts, tore away tin rooves and pipes and flooded agricultural areas. The full extent of the damage can not yet be measured but will be contained within the region here.
Poorer populations always particularly affected by natural disasters
On the first exploratory trip, Hofmeister and his team saw some destroyed houses and flooded fields – but nothing like the destruction of a year ago. The storm-proof houses that Welthungerhilfe had recently built together with the population could not be destroyed by Hagupit. However, simple huts cannot withstand storms. “The poorer population has little to contend with natural disasters. And it is precisely this group that we are helping through our reconstruction programmes.
The ‘build back safer’ approach has proved its value. Instead of distributing construction material, within the context of a house building project, local craftspeople are trained in the building of storm-proof housing. Through this training, the people learn to build storm-proof houses themselves. In a high-risk region such as the Philippines, everything in a house – from foundations to roof – must be connectedly stable and secure”, explains Hofmeister. “Only then can a house withstand the on average ten or more tropical storms every year.” Many people who have been affected by Hagupit will be involved in the project.
In times of climate change: Governments are in demand
Welthungerhilfe will initially remain active only in the project area on the island of Panay. In the Philippines there is a good network of NGOs and partners who can help the affected people on the other islands. But the government too is in greater demand: typhoons and storms are increasing in regularity in the Philippines. Disaster management must be further developed, the new conditions must be given greater consideration in any future city and rural planning. The storm-proof houses on Panay are a start.