‘We were all prepared for Typhoon Hagupit’

Typhoon Hagupit destroyed houses made of light materials along Tacloban City's harbor. Photo © Camille Borie/ Handicap International

Typhoon Hagupit destroyed houses made of light materials along Tacloban City’s harbor. Photo © Camille Borie/ Handicap International

Typhoon Hagupit, which swept through the Philippines this weekend, did not spare the province of Leyte. Tacloban City and the municipalities of Alang-Alang and Pastrana, which experienced the full force of Typhoon Haiyan one year ago, once again had to face this extreme weather event head on. The storm caused extensive material damage: trees were uprooted, electricity pylons knocked down, and roofs blown off.

“Memories of Typhoon Haiyan, which left around 8,000 people dead in November 2013, are still extremely vivid,” says Emilie Rivier, Operational Coordinator for Handicap International in the Philippines. “The local populations therefore took the recent warnings from the government and humanitarian actors very seriously and actively prepared for the disaster. Across the country, 1.7 million people were displaced to 5,193 evacuation centres. Today, the inhabitants are already getting started on the repair work. To the best of my knowledge, there was no loss of life in Tacloban, Alang-Alang, or Pastrana. The local authorities have even proudly announced two births!”

Handicap International assessed the situation of vulnerable people in Pastrana, Leyte. Photo © Camille Borie/ Handicap International

Handicap International assessed the situation of vulnerable people in Pastrana, Leyte. Photo © Camille Borie/ Handicap International

Since December 9, Handicap International’s teams have been assessing the extent of the damage suffered by the organization’s beneficiaries, visiting around 30 barangays in Alang-Alang, Tacloban, and Pastrana, where Hagupit has done considerable damage to the agricultural sector, in particular the banana plantations.

Since Typhoon Haiyan, Handicap International has been implementing a project to build 200 permanent shelters, in collaboration with the local population.

“In these municipalities the results of our assessment were very positive,” says Rivier. “The permanent shelters, built using ‘Build Back Safer’ methods, resisted the typhoon. We were also able to prepare families properly, which meant they took shelter and were able to protect their possessions. We will therefore shortly be ready to resume our construction projects.”

Handicap International also visited the families who were given new working tools following the onslaught of Typhoon Haiyan.

“The winds blew and the rain fell continuously for 48 hours, but the pigs distributed are still in good health and the sari-sari stores were not destroyed,” Rivier adds. “Among the 800 households who have benefited from our support, only minor material damage has been reported. We have all learned lessons from Typhoon Haiyan, and we were very well prepared.”

Typhoon Hagupit has therefore not had any major impact on the projects implemented by Handicap International in the province of Leyte, and the teams have already been able to resume their work.