Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) & How You Can Help

Photo Credit: mb.com

Just four days ago, the Super Typhoon Yolanda (international code: Haiyan), came through the Philippines and devastated most of the Visayas region - the center of the archipelago - hitting Cebu and Tacloban the hardest. With thousands dead and hundreds of thousands having lost their homes, their livelihood, friends, and family, things don't seem to be getting any better with looters and lawlessness prevailing (we really can't admonish what they've done - they are desperate and are on survival mode right now), as there seems to be no form of government.

The US-based Weather Underground declared Yolanda a category-5 super typhoon that could cause extreme flooding, storm surges and damage infrastructure, and scientists have warned that climate change could intensify extreme weather events such as typhoons and flooding. I think people weren't as prepared as they should have been, not completely understanding what a storm surge was, and underestimated Yolanda's wrath thinking it would be "just another typhoon". This resulted in the chaos that's presently ensuing. In all my years of living in this beautiful country (storms, earthquakes and all), I have never seen such destruction - and all in the span of one night.

In my mind, I couldn't comprehend the gravity of the situation until all the reports started pouring in. It was heartbreaking and gut-wrenching to see all the destruction and death.
Right now we’re operating in a relative black hole of information. We know from the very little we can see that the situation is terrible. But it’s what we don’t see that’s the most worrying.” - Natasha Reyes, Philippine emergency coordinator for Paris-based medical aid organization, Doctors Without Borders, on the ground in Tacloban.
Photo Credit: telegraph.co.uk

I would read the most heartbreaking stories of survivors who had lost everything on Facebook. Teddy Montelibano of Manila Bulletin shares a conversation he had with a correspondent based in Leyte: There is nothing more heartrending than to receive a call from a proud grown-up man - Manila Bulletin's correspondent from Tacloban, Leyte Nestor Abrematea, by cellular phone, bawling his heart out and saying, almost incoherently, "Sir, wala kaming pagkain... namatay na sila lahat (his relatives) [there's no food left and they're all dead]." I managed to get it out from him that he walked, and was able to hitch a ride with someone and he just got to Catbalogan, Samar. No light, nothing. From one hell-hole to another. He said he just wanted to get away from the stench of dead bodies - including those of numerous friends and relatives - lying on the ground - still unburied - and where he couldn't find any food or water - in Tacloban. He said he had a few bucks in his pocket but when that, and the remaining battery charge in his mobile phone runs out. "Hindi ko na alam gagawin ko, sir. (I don't know what else to do)" And this proud, grown up man started to bawl again.

On Janine Dário's Facebook, I saw the photo above with this caption:
If there is one photo everyone should see to understand the need in #Yolandaph, it is this. An entire village disappears.Iron and steel were bent. The control tower disappears. Storm surge 50 ft high was like a tsunami but on all sides of the islands CNN: It is like a tornado but unlike a tornado which is one mile wide, this was 50 miles wide. Photo from @mariramosCNN.

Even the professional storm-chaser, James Reynolds, whose day job involves capturing typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions at heart-stoppingly close range says Super Typhoon Yolanda was the most terrifying he has ever witnessed.
I’ve chased nothing like this before. This was just totally off the scale both in terms of the violence of the storm and then the human tragedy, the consequences of such a powerful natural event hitting a city of 200,000 people,” - James Reynolds
Photo Credit: inquirer.net

Nevertheless, it really warms the heart to know that when tragedy strikes, the whole world comes together to help pick up the pieces. It isn't about race, or religion, or foreign policy. It is about human beings helping human beings. And that, to me, is beautiful. I only hope that all these donations go where they're supposed to go and not into the pockets of the corrupt, immoral bastards that run the country:
  • Australia - US$10 million package
  • Belgium - medical and search and rescue personnel
  • Canada - C$5 million
  • Denmark - KR 10 million
  • European Union - EUR 3 million
  • Germany - 23 tons of relief goods
  • Hungary - search and rescue personnel and rapid response team
  • Indonesia - in-kind donations
  • Israel- team of medical, trauma and relief professionals
  • Japan - emergency relief medical team
  • Malaysia - medical and search and rescue teams
  • The Netherlands - undisclosed financial aid
  • New Zealand - NZ $2.15 million
  • Norway - KR 20 million
  • Russia - rapid response team
  • Saudi Arabia (through Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud) - US$100,000
  • Singapore - $50,000
  • Spain - in-kind donations
  • Sweeden- emergency communications equipment
  • Taiwan - $200,000
  • Turket - medics, rapid response team, search and rescue personnel
  • United Arab Emirates - Dhs 36 million
  • United Kingdom - £6 million and $9.6 million worth of emergency support package
  • United Nations Children's Fund - $1.3 million worth of supplies
  • United States - initial $100,000 for water and sanitation; Troops, emergency respondents, transportation and equipment
I also cannot help but beam with pride at how the country I was born in (the UAE) and the country whose values and education I was raised on (the UK) has given so much so generously to help my beautiful country.

Photo Credit: telegraph.co.uk

For those of you wanting to help, whether you be in the country or outside, here are a few organizations who are lending their support to help:

When helping the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda, also keep in mind that other parts of the country need our help, too. Northern parts of Cebu, Aklan, Antique, Negros, Panay, Palawan, Southern Mindoro and Romblon are also in dire need to relief goods, as they have no power or water as well. So give generously, give as much as you can, give with all your heart.

I'm afraid the worst is yet to come with people coming to grips at the reality of building their lives anew - but aside from being unshakable, the Filipino spirit is also waterproof. Although things may seem bleak now, we will rise above this - we always do.

Just mucking around Manila,

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