Aid groups on standby as Philippines weathers Bopha

Typhoon Bopha – locally called Pablo – landed on the island of Mindanao early Tuesday morning, Philippine time. Photo by: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team

Aid agencies and local government units appear better prepared this time around as a typhoon batters a Philippine region still reeling from the effects of last year’s devastating storm.

Typhoon Bopha – locally called Pablo – landed on the island of Mindanao early Tuesday morning, Philippine time. It is expected to follow a path similar to that of Tropical Storm Washi, which hit the island and nearby regions in December 2011, leaving more than 1,200 fatalities and millions of pesos in damage.

Bopha is reportedly the strongest typhoon to strike Mindanao, which is rarely hit by regular weather disturbances experienced by the Philippines. It packs a wind speed that is more than twice the strength of Washi, which the U.N. International Strategy of Disaster Reduction has identified as one of the deadliest disasters of 2011, alongside the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Initial reports from the Philippine’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council indicate that there have been three storm-related deaths, as well as a landslide, in Mindanao. Some 8,238 families have already been affected by Typhoon Bopha, according to Abigail Valte, deputy president spokeswoman.

Aid officials and local authorities, however, are optimistic that humanitarian and economic losses from Bopha will be lower than those left by Washi. Richard Gordon, head of the Philippine Red Cross, said local officials in Mindanao and nearby regions have evacuated people from vulnerable areas ahead of the storm’s expected landfall, CNN reports.

The pre-emptive evacuations were to avoid a situation similar to when torrential rain brought by Washi triggered flashfloods and landslides in the middle of the night, catching a lot of people off guard.

“The pre-emptive evacuation conducted yesterday was a smart move,” Crislyn Felisilda, World Vision emergency communications officer in Cagayan de Oro, told Devex.  “We are not worried too much this time because families have already been evacuated to a higher ground.”

Felisilda added that World Vision is monitoring the situation and is prepared to deliver food and nonfood assistance if requested by the government.

So far, Philippine local and national government agencies have stressed they have enough resources to address needs that may arise during and in the aftermath of the typhoon’s onslaught.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development, for one, said that it has “enough resources with a P4.27 million standby funds and P43.41 million worth of relief supplies in all DSWD field offices along the typhoon path ready to augment resources of affected local government units.”

Still, a number of international aid agencies have prepositioned relief items in Mindanao. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has local and foreign personnel on the ground to support the Philippine Red Cross. It is has also prepositioned supplies in Mindanao and elsewhere within the Philippines. It added that it is ready to fly in relief items from its hub in Malaysia. 

Jenny Lei Ravelo contributed reporting

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributes to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.