Millions of people in the United States celebrated over the Christmas holidays but hundreds of thousands of people in the Philippines spent it without homes, electricity, or food and water after a large typhoon hit the Asian country last week, devastating central island provinces.
Typhoon Rai’s Destruction
The typhoon is named Typhoon Rai and it hit the Philippines on December 16, leaving at least 375 people dead in its wake. It’s being described as one of the worst typhoons to hit the country in five decades.
More than 3 million people have been directly affected by the destruction, which caused widespread power outages and water shortages. Some areas have been left completely cut off from relief teams.
More than 200 municipalities were without power and children became ill due to shortages of basic supplies. The threat can grow if help doesn’t arrive quickly.
Wind speeds hit the southwestern part of the Philippines at more than 115 mph, sometimes reaching speeds of 168 mph.
The damage is extensive and horrifying stories are coming in. A 57-year-old man was found dead hanging from a tree branch and a woman was blown away by the wind and died in Negros Occidental province.
Not enough information about the conditions in areas such as Surigao del Norte, Bohol, and Cebu is coming in due to the network outages.
In the province of Bohol, we know that more than 100 people died and about 150,000 houses were either damaged or destroyed entirely. Governor Arthur Yap is asking for people not to forget about them and for foreign aid to help provide temporary shelters and water filtration systems to supplement Philippine government aid.
Survivors in Surigao City were seen standing on roads for days, begging for money and food from passing motorists.
In Cebu city, water refilling stations have been forced to rely on generators to process potable water, causing delays and shortages. Many convenience stores and supermarkets have sold out of water and street vendors were selling bottles at inflated prices. Residents have taken to social media to share information on where essential supplies are still available.
The true scale of the destruction is difficult to assess because there are still extensive communication difficulties, including damage to access points such as roads, ports, and airports.
A Different Type of Christmas
The Philippines is Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation and Typhoon Rai’s widespread destruction has dampened celebrations as many survivors still search for resources to survive.
There are reports that many survivors are holding on to hope and are thankful that they are alive. Churches that were able to, delivered Christmas Day Mass as devotees gathered, praying for new roofs, supplies, and a better year ahead.
Christmas is a very important time of the year for the Philippine people where families gather together to celebrate. After two years of being separated from their loved ones in the pandemic, the storm hitting them days before the holiday is very devastating for them.
Rodrigo Duterte, the president, has declared a state of calamity in affected areas, enabling authorities to impose price caps on commodities such as water and emergency resources.
There are funding shortages in the country due to challenges in the pandemic so much-needed assistance is hampered. Many local governments have already exhausted their annual budgets.
The Red Cross has provided affected areas with access to satellite phones so that they can communicate with loved ones and friends.
Around 662,000 people are displaced and 418,371 people are in evacuation centers in schools, churches, and camps. The conditions are raising concerns about the spread of illnesses. Already, children are starting to catch fever, colds, and coughs. It’s difficult to impose social distancing and the use of protective equipment in these conditions.
Typhoon Rai has devastated the livelihoods of farmers, fishing communities, and tourism operators. It will be a long road for many of these poor people to get back to normal life.
At Karmagawa and SaveTheReef we are heartbroken about the suffering all these people are going through. We want to do what we can and we’d love for you to help. So far we’ve raised over $28,000 to send food, supplies, medical aid, and water to hard-hit areas. Our goal is to raise $50,000 so please consider giving a donation. No amount is too small or big because we can do so much together. 100% of the funds raised will go to help those in need!
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What do you think about the destruction that has happened in the Philippines? What would you do if your life was upended just days before the holidays?
(Cover Image: Camera Kidd/Shutterstock)