As Super Typhoon Haiyan plows through the Philippines, Catholic Relief Services’ Country Representative Joe Curry has been interviewed by major news outlets such as NBC, CNN, BBC and others. Below is a short question and answer exchange with Joe about Haiyan’s impact and CRS’ response to people in need.
Q: You’re in Bohol right now, 60 miles south of where the Typhoon hit. This is the same location where the 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit three weeks ago. What was your experience going through Typhoon Haiyan in the same location?
A: With Typhoon Haiyan there were torrential rains and heavy winds, but it was manageable. The real concern in Bohol is for the displaced families without homes, about 350,000 people from the earthquake. Families had to evacuate to safer locations and sometimes take refuge in damaged buildings.
Q. What kind of damage do you anticipate?
A: There are some reports coming from the government in Leyte. There are reports of flash floods, landslides and wind damage are reported in Eastern Samar and Leyte provinces. Iloilo Island in Western Visayas was also heavily affected. Telecommunication and electricity are interrupted along the typhoon path. Priorities are shelter, food, water and sanitation, hygiene and health.
Q: Could you describe the areas hardest hit?
A: The areas that were hit are largely rural. In rural areas, anywhere from 30-40% of the population would be very poor, including farmers and fishermen, earning around $2-3 per day. The poorest are the people who are most affected by disasters like this. They live in the most fragile houses that are susceptible to damage.
Q: Catholic Relief Services was already responding to the earthquake. Are the Philippines relief efforts strong enough to handle both crises?
A: Catholic Relief Services, our partners and other aid agencies are in the process of mobilizing resources to help the government and the most affected areas. The typhoon was powerful and expansive, hitting a number of islands. It did not weaken as it passed through and hit a number of islands as a super typhoon. Based on other typhoons, like Typhoon Bopha last year, we can expect that this was a catastrophic typhoon, not only for one island but many.
The Philippine government always makes a great effort to reach those in need, and works through its local city and municipal governments (much like towns or counties in the US). The typhoon is coming after a string of recent emergencies, including the Bohol Earthquake on Oct 15, flooding in Manila in August, and armed conflict in Zamboanga in September/October.