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The Philippines has been hit by another powerful typhoon leaving thousands of people homeless on the main northern island of Luzon. A ShelterBox Response Team (SRT) is currently travelling to the Asian country to assess the situation.
Typhoon Utor (locally known as Labuyo) made landfall earlier this week, bringing winds of up to 185 kph (115 mph), damaging agriculture and infrastructure as well as uprooting trees making roads impassable. Communication and electricity services have also been affected.
‘The storm crossed northern Luzon as a Category 3 typhoon and also affected the Bicol and Aurora regions, northern Samar and the eastern coast Luzon, including Polillo Island,’ said ShelterBox Operations Coordinator Dave Ray.
‘This path is historically prone to destructive weather patterns and there is a high level of community preparedness with government focus on building resilience among the communities. So we have deployed an assessment SRT to the region to explore the possibility of assisting and coordinating with existing humanitarian response operations.’
SRT member Liz Odell (UK) has been on deployment to the Philippines before but says it’s going to be different:
‘Last time I was in the Philippines I was at the tail end of the deployment, distributing the last of the ShelterBoxes and tents which had been moved to Davao on Mindanao island. This time I'm leading the first team in, only three days after Typhoon Utor struck.
‘Flash flooding and landslides’
‘We have made contact with Plan International, another aid agency who is doing assessments in the Aurora region, and plan to join them on Friday after flying into the capital Manila very late on Thursday. We have been warned that travel is very slow and some roads are impassable due to flash flooding and landslides. So for me personally it's a very different deployment.’
Liz is also being joined by Steve Gibson (US) as well as in-country SRT member Abner Tayco (PH) with his local knowledge and expertise of the area, who has already organised transport, routes, local phones and accommodation.
‘Unaware of mass suffering’
‘Coming from Boulder, Colorado, I’m continually struck by how isolated we can be,’ commented Steve. ‘Here we have been completely unaware of mass suffering, like this typhoon, as it’s not in the media.
‘Being deployed to try and assist the communities who have lost everything not only provides a chance to help bring shelter and dignity to the survivors, but it’s a reminder of just how fortunate those of us who read the news, rather than live it, really are.’