Philippines: Typhoon Utor’s trail of destruction
By William Azucena, Save the Children Programme Manager in Aurora Province, the Philippines
It’s a terrifying thought. A powerful typhoon with winds of up to 200km/h hits your home, which isn’t sturdy enough to withstand the impact.
That’s exactly what happened to many children and their families in Northern Luzon, Philippines, when Typhoon Utor ripped through villages and towns just before sunrise last Monday (12 August).
Utor, known locally as Labuyo, was the most powerful typhoon of the year, bringing devastating winds, heavy rains and a storm surge.
At least six people have died and five others are missing.
The full extent of the damage and casualties are not known, with several towns still completely cut off from search and rescue teams.
A team of us from the field office in Aurora, the worst-hit province, set off quickly after the disaster struck with pre-prepared relief packages of food and household essentials.
Blocked roads, landslides and flooding pose a huge challenge to reaching people affected by the typhoon. But we pressed on, knowing from experience that children need urgent help after two nights potentially without hot meals, clean water or a bed.
Along the way, we saw scenes destruction everywhere – fallen trees, damaged crops and broken electric lines. Communication was intermittent at best.
Initial numbers from the Philippines disaster agency show about 186,000 people affected. That figure is expected to rise as we reach towns and villages that have been cut off.
Children living in these areas will likely need new shelter, clean water, food, medicine and a safe place to play, learn and talk through their experience.
With their parents’ livelihoods destroyed, a concerted effort is needed to ensure that schools resume quickly and children remain in school instead of dropping out to work.
We need to reach the worst-affected families quickly. They’re facing days of heavy rain brought on by the typhoon, which could cause extensive flooding, especially in the low-lying areas.
Save the Children has been working in the Philippines since 1981. We have a long experience responding to emergencies in the Philippines – Typhoon Washi in 2011, Ketsana in 2009, and Typhoon Bopha and the Manila floods last year.