Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Philippines - A landscape of utter destruction is being revealed across the path of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in the Philippines, as rescue and assessment teams begin their work in some of the affected areas.
Aid workers on the ground warn that the destruction could approach or even exceed that caused by Haiti’s calamitous 2010 earthquake, which left tens of thousands dead and 1.5 million homeless.
IOM is part of the government-led assessment missions and Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit (EPRU) head, Conrad Navidad, reports massive challenges ahead for the aid effort. Seniorstaff are being rushed in form across IOM’s global operations to assist, such is the expected final impact of Haiyan/Yolanda.
In Tacloban City in Leyte province alone up to 10,000 people are estimated to have died; the city is just one of a dozen places where the super-typhoon made landfall, so the death toll is expected to rise significantly.
"So far, Leyte is surfacing as the ‘ground zero’ for the typhoon," said Navidad, adding that members of the assessment teams and media had to walk for hoursfrom the Tacloban airport to reach the city. "All communication and power lines are down right now, but we expect services to be up within the next 48 hours. The Department of Health (DOH) will be deploying health teams from Manila as well as setup tent hospitals equipped with essential medicines and medical supplies including body bags for the cadavers."
Another major problem is law and order; both the police and army have sent forces from other areas to address the looting and breakdown of the local government in the province. The national government is being asked to take over since all thelocal authorities have been affected and displaced by the devastating typhoon.
The port on the island of Bohol, a gateway to Leyte, is functional once again. The island escaped the worst of the storm’s fury reports IOM’s Lionel Dosdos, who is coordinating the response for last month’s earthquake which left 350,000 people homeless.
"The main challenge here is the lack of electricity, which is leading to water rationing and shortages, and power is needed for hospitals and other important municipal services," he said, speaking by phone from Bohol this morning.
At present the police estimate that some 10,000 people may have died in Leyte alone. Hundreds of thousands are homeless and nearly half a million are is displaced shelters across 37 municipalities. At one point the storm clouds covered two-thirds of the territory of the Philippines and has had a direct effect on at least 9.5 million people. The economic cost will likely run into billions of dollars.
"The restoration of communications and power lines are urgent and critical now," added IOM Philippines Chief of Mission, Marco Boasso. "Without that we cannot get a clear picture of the true magnitude of this mega-disaster and the ensuing needs. What we areseeing now is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I am sad to say that over the coming days we are likely to see a sharp and tragic rise in Haiyan’s impact."
A new typhoon is looming to enter the Philippines this coming week as well.
The storm has weakened as it heads towards Vietnam, but may increase in power. IOM’s office there is on full alert. The government and UN system is warning of heavy flooding in Hanoi.
For more information please contact:
In Bangkok: Joe Lowry, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. +66 81 8708081
In Bohol: Lionel Dosdos, Email: email@example.com, Tel. +63 906 2228608
In Hanoi, Florian Forster, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. +84 903 450