Disaster preparedness saved lives in the Philippines

Jarkko Mikkonen
Jarkko Mikkonen
Jarkko Mikkonen
Jarkko Mikkonen
Jarkko Mikkonen
Jarkko Mikkonen

Volunteers trained by the Finnish Red Cross did an exemplary job of evacuating people to safety on the island of Panaya in the Aklan Province of the Philippines prior to the landfall of super typhoon Haiyan. Loss of human life and injuries in the area were relatively few.

You can help the victims of Haiyan in the Philippines
  • By calling: 0600 122 20 (20,28 Euros + lnf)
  • Sending a text message: SPR to number 16499 (15 Euros/message)
  • By donating online: http://www.redcross.fi/donate/typhoon-philippines
  • By bank transfer: Nordea FI06 2219 1800 0680 00. Mark your payment: Philippines Typhoon

On Thursday, 7 November 2013, the day before the world’s most destructive typhoon hit land, Red Cross volunteers were out and about from early morning in the village of Bakhaw Norte.

- The authorities had warned us that a strong typhoon was on its way. We went around the village warning people who were living in light structures that they should go to one of the evacuation centres before the typhoon strikes the next day, says Duvill Duran, coordinator for the Red Cross local branch in Bakhaw Norte.

- We had already supplied the evacuation centres with rice, canned foods, noodles and coffee, adds Dona Tan, another Red Cross volunteer.

On the Friday, the volunteers got out the loudspeakers donated by the Finnish Red Cross. The speakers had been used several times before to warn villagers of previous disasters that have struck the region.

- The people know that a short sound is a warning and a long sound signals that danger is imminent, says Duran.

- When the typhoon struck, the wind was howling like an aeroplane. But the walls of our evacuation centre stood up to it.

Food and housing supplies help those made homeless

The Aklan region is home to some 550,000 people and the storm has caused damage to most of the buildings in it.

- Tarpaulins, emergency shelter supplies and tools are needed in the area now, so that people can get a roof over their head as soon as possible, says Marko Korhonen, regional representative of the Finnish Red Cross in Asia.

The Finnish Red Cross is delivering food and supplies for shelters to the Aklan area. The first food delivery has supplied daily rations of rice, noodles and sardines for 12,000 families.

Preparedness teams know what to do

Duran, Tan and a host of other volunteers have taken part in disaster preparedness training made possible by the Finnish Red Cross. The training programme has been in place in the Aklan area since 2011.

Disaster preparedness has been increased by setting up teams inside the villages. In cooperation with the authorities, the preparedness teams chart risk factors in their local communities and create preparedness plans. The training also teaches volunteers to give first aid and to provide information on health issues.

The results are clear. Thousands of people sought refuge in the evacuation centres set up in town halls and schools across the Aklan region and the toll of death and injury from the typhoon was not as high as it could have been. In the Aklan area, where many houses were severely damaged, less than 200 people were hurt.

- Once again, this disaster has shown that it pays off to be prepared before a disaster strikes, says Marko Korhonen, who is in Aklan at present to map what aid is needed throughout the area.

Text: Johanna Lassy-Mäntyvaara / The Philippines, Aklan