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Philippines’ Typhoon Rai (Odette) leaves over 375 dead and 780,000 affected

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At least 375 people were killed and a further 780,000 impacted by Typhoon Rai, which slammed into the Philippines with wind gusts of up to 235 km/h last Thursday, 16 December.  

The typhoon brought torrential rain, strong winds, flash floods, landslides and extensive damage to homes and livelihoods across five regions, and over 300,000 people were evacuated.  

The extensive damage, coupled with the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, has made emergency response challenging: roads are impassable, and whole areas have lost power, communications and access to clean water. Hundreds of thousands of people are stranded without access to basic infrastructure.   

“More than 780,000 people have been impacted, and a lot of these people are currently living below the poverty line – which in the Philippines is the low figure of USD $3.20 a day,” says Aloysius Canete, Caritas Australia’s Global Humanitarian Emergencies Lead.

According to Canete, at least 400,000 will need urgent relief for shelter, food, clean water and medicine.

“This typhoon was the worst so far in 2021, and it’s really tough for communities to rebuild during a pandemic because everything becomes more complicated – getting to impacted communities and providing emergency supplies quickly and safely is so much harder.

“There are already major shortages because of supply-chain disruptions, and healthcare services are running virtually on empty after two years of the virus. Very strict and long-running lockdowns mean families have lost large amounts of income over the past two years and they have much less money and resources to rebuild than they normally would,” Canete said. 

Staff at Palo's multi-purpose office building supporting evacuees during Typhoon Rai. | Credit Caritas Palo
Staff at Palo’s multi-purpose office building supporting evacuees during Typhoon Rai. | Credit Caritas Palo
Evacuees in Palo stay at multi-purpose office building during Typhoon Rai. | Credit Caritas Palo
Evacuees in Palo stay at multi-purpose office building during Typhoon Rai. | Credit Caritas Palo

“Right now, we’re hearing reports that some communities might be waiting for weeks for their power to be restored, and they don’t know when the water supply will return,” Fr Tony Labiao, Caritas Philippines’ Executive Secretary said.

“It is not just the days after a typhoon that are difficult – the recovery process can stretch weeks, months, and in many cases, even years. I anticipate that the recovery from this typhoon will be long and difficult, and require a lot of coordination and effort from our partner Caritas Philippines, the government, and other local and international organisations.

“Thankfully, the Caritas Philippines Humanitarian Team was monitoring the typhoon three days before it landed, and they were in contact with our church network to get information out to communities to prepare for the typhoon – including setting aside churches as evacuation centres. The Philippines is a strongly Catholic country, which means that working through church networks is an effective way to reach communities who live in remote areas, or very poor communities that might not have a lot of access to resources.

“There is immediate and urgent need on the ground for shelter, food, clean water and medicine,” Fr Labiao said.

Caritas Australia’s counterpart in the Philippines is currently assessing needs on the ground in the affected areas. Caritas Australia has pledged to support the Philippines through the Asia Emergency Appeal, to support the emergency response and rebuilding efforts after Typhoon Rai (Odette).  

Visit www.caritas.org.au/donate/emergency-appeals/asia/ or call 1800 024 413 toll free to provide much-needed support to the Philippines by donating to its Asia Emergency Appeal.  


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