Handicap International prepares as Typhoon Hagupit threatens the Philippines

Typhoon Hagupit as of December 4, 2014. Screenshot from www.cyclocane.com

Typhoon Hagupit as of December 4, 2014. Screenshot from www.cyclocane.com

Typhoon Hagupit (known locally as Ruby) is set to hit the Philippines this weekend, potentially impacting millions of people. Handicap International’s teams working in the archipelago are preparing to take action to support the most vulnerable populations.

There is a serious risk that super typhoon Hagupit, which has been gathering strength in the Pacific ocean since Tuesday (December 2), will hit the Philippines this weekend. Hagupit is generating winds of 215 – 380 km/hour and 10-metre high waves and is now a category 5 storm, the most powerful and destructive level on the scale. It is expected to reach the Pacific coast of the Philippines on Saturday and hit the north of the archipelago, including the capital Manila and the Tacloban area. This area suffered extensive damage when Typhoon Haiyan hit on November 8, 2013. Around 50 provinces of the Philippines have been put on high alert.

Tacloban City is one of the areas most affected by typhoon Haiyan last year. © Till Mayer / Handicap International

Tacloban City is one of the areas most affected by typhoon Haiyan last year. © Till Mayer / Handicap International

“There is widespread panic in Tacloban. Following Typhoon Haiyan which hit a year ago, killing over 6,000 people and affecting 15 million individuals, the population is traumatised,” explains Cédric Linossier, Head of Mission for Handicap International’s emergency response in the Philippines. “The schools have been closed. Everyone is preparing for the worst. In Manila, people have been stocking up on rice and other goods from the stores, to make sure they can cope on their own for at least a week.”

Handicap International is already active in Manila, Tacloban (Leyte province), Roxas (Capiz province), Baras (Rizal province), and Davao City. The teams are warning the most vulnerable populations about the impending typhoon and informing them about the protective measures they should take. Where necessary, the association is making arrangements to move people to evacuation centres. At the same time the teams are preparing their contingency stocks, as well as the logistics equipment required to clear the roads.

“We are also taking care to ensure the safety of the Handicap International staff members in the country and to maintain our capabilities. We need to be ready to respond to this emergency situation,” declares Cédric Linossier.

Following the passage of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, Handicap International set up an intervention to support vulnerable people in the provinces of Leyte and Capiz. Handicap International’s teams organised a logistics platform which made it possible to transport humanitarian aid to isolated areas and evacuate debris, over a period of several months. Our teams have also distributed 1,390 tents in Lawaan, in the province of Eastern Samar and Batad, in the province of Iloilo. A support project for 800 people who lost their working tools in the disaster is still underway, as well as a project to build 1,200 temporary shelters. The association is also running a project for children with disabilities, to facilitate their inclusion in the 50 Child Friendly Spaces set up in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Handicap International’s teams in the Philippines are made up of around 190 people.