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It is a scary thought: Having the strongest typhoon of the year hit your home. A house that is not structurally sturdy enough to withstand winds of up to 200km/h.
This scary thought came to life for many children and their families in Northern Luzon, Philippines, as Typhoon Utor ripped through villages and towns just before sunrise on Monday. Utor, known locally as Labuyo, packed winds of up to 200km/h, bringing heavy rains and a storm surge.
At least six people have died and five others missing. The full extent of the damage and casualties are not known as several towns remain completely cut off from search and rescue teams.
Staff in Save the Children’s field office in Aurora Province – the worst-hit province – set off shortly after the disaster struck with pre-made relief packages. Access has been extremely difficult due to blocked roads, landslides and flooding, but our team pressed on because experience tells us that children need help urgently after spending two nights possibly without hot meals, clean water and a bed.
Along the way, the destruction was everywhere. Around us were fallen trees, damaged crops, broken electric lines and intermittent communication at best. Initial numbers from the Philippines disaster agency show about 186,000 people affected, but this is expected to continue rising as we find our way into the towns that have been cut off.
Children living in these post-typhoon 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, extra effort is needed to ensure that schools resume quickly and children remain in school instead of dropping out to work.
Indeed, relief needs to reach the worst-affected families quickly as they continue to face 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 and has a long experience responding to emergencies in the Philippines. The aid agency mounted large-scale emergency responses to Typhoon Washi in 2011 and Typhoon Ketsana in 2009, and most recently to last year’s Typhoon Bopha and Manila floods.