Late last week and into the weekend, the Philippines faced a meteorological nightmare that has long been familiar, but never gets easier. Typhoon Rai, or Typhoon Odette to PAGASA, struck the country beginning December 16, cutting a path through the Visayas but with a reach affecting southern Luzon and northern Mindanao as well. As with strong typhoons past, Odette unleashed frightening property damage to areas where it made landfall, inflicting casualties and wreaking havoc on public utilities as well as internet access, the latter also affecting Mindanao. With the passing of the storm and reveal of devastation, the Philippines finds itself surrounded by helping hands.
According to the Philippine Star, foreign governments both near and far have simultaneously expressed sympathy to the Philippines for the damage caused by Typhoon Odette, and mobilized what they promise to be the first wave of relief assistance to the affected areas concentrated in the middle of the country. This aid comes in the form of immediate food and relief goods, emergency shelters, and financial assistance to national agencies such as the Philippine Red Cross. Any international political implications from this help takes to the background as immediate intercession for the affected citizens take priority.
Food and relief packs are the immediate response of Philippine neighbors China and Japan. The former, according to Chinese ambassador to the country Huang Xilian, notes 20,000 care packages amounting to P8 million, each with 5 kilos rice, canned goods and noodles, are ready for distribution with help from the Filipino-Chinese community, along with nearly 5 million kilos of donated rice in local ports. His Japanese counterpart emphasizes their relief consisting of shelter commodities such as tents, plastic sheets, sleeping accommodations and sorely-needed electrical generators, given that power remains down in many areas even nearly a week after Odette visited.
The US Embassy notes that their nation is also on the ground immediately to assist, courtesy of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Their first objective is providing shelter assistance to reach around 3,000 typhoon-affected families, with materials such as heavy duty sheeting. Some 10,000 government food packs are also being deployed to Butuan City, one of several Mindanao areas that bore the brunt of Odette. The United Kingdom in turn is pledging £750,000 (P49.58 million) to the Philippine Red Cross via their international governing body the IFRC, according to British Minister of State for Asia Amanda Milling.
Such help is sorely needed. Typhoon Odette was the strongest weather disturbance to strike the Philippines this year. The NDRRMC estimates infrastructural damage at P225 million and agricultural damage of P118 million. Some 375 Filipinos were killed by the storm, and not all power and communication capabilities have been restored.
Image: US Embassy – Philippines, Twitter