Super Typhoon Yolanda Essays

Severely devastated residential area in Barangay Magallanes, Tacloban City

Image Credit: Herman Lumanog

Mother and daughter survivors of Typhoon Haiyan in Barangay Anibong, Tacloban City.

Image Credit: Herman Lumanog

Survivors of Typhoon Haiyan line up for food in Barangay Magallanes, Tacloban City, the remains of a house in the background.

Image Credit: Herman Lumanog

People work to erect a temporary shelter on the site of what was their house, in Barangay Anibong, Tacloban City.

Image Credit: Herman Lumanog

A woman continues with her daily chores besides one of the ships that were washed ashore in Barangay Anibong, Tacloban City.

Image Credit: Herman Lumanog

A typhoon survivor smiles from the window of her temporary house in Barangay Anibong, Tacloban City.

Image Credit: Herman Lumanog

A worker carries a sack of rice on his head inside one of the UN World Food Programme tents in Tacloban City.

Image Credit: Herman Lumanog

Local workers for the UN Development Programme provide assistance in one of the severely devastated parts of Barangay Anibong, Tacloban City.

Image Credit: Herman Lumanog

A woman carries her washed as she passes by a mass grave where 200 victims of Typhoon Haiyan are buried, along the roadside of Holy Cross Cemetery in Diit Village, Tacloban City.

Image Credit: Herman Lumanog

A woman prays inside the Palo Catholic Church in front of a statue of Jesus and Mary in Palo, Tacloban City.

Image Credit: Herman Lumanog

Children who survived the wrath of Typhoon Haiyan enjoy their afternoon at their temporary shelter at Tacloban City, Philippines.

Image Credit: Herman Lumanog

Introduction

The strongest typhoon ever to hit the land, Yolanda is unnaturally powerful causing unimaginable damage and destruction to lands, properties and lives. It definitely portrayed the ugliest reality of a warmed world we live in today. The global warming has induced sea level rise which contributed to the 20 feet storm surge that definitely caught the victims off guard.

Gone are the days when we lived in a world without warming. The climate change it has caused makes tropical storms more damaging not only through increased winds speed and heavier rainfall but most notably rising sea levels which in turn means greater damage and severe loss of lives and properties.

Poor and developing countries like the Philippines with regular tropical storms once or twice a month will be greatly affected and devastated by the destructive effects of our warmed world. The Philippines has an average of 21 typhoons every year but Super Typhoon Yolanda was its 24th and it has been forecasted that two more typhoons will hit the country before the year ends.

When the Super Typhoon Yolanda had hit the central part of the Philippines last November 8, 2013, it has revealed the ugliest characteristics of unprepared government to manage and reduce/mitigate destructions caused by such a warmed world monster. It has also revealed the total failure of the government and its agencies to fully understand the implication of such disasters to the people and the environment. Hence, on the eve of the super typhoon, the President had announced to the nation that a signal number 4 [5 in international categories [1].] typhoon would be the strength of the coming disaster, but what would it be like when it hits the ground, he could not mention. How the people on the direct path of the monster typhoon would prepare could not be figured out.

Indeed, with the storm surge and the sadden rise of the sea level up to more than 20 feet where would the people go and hide? But the worst thing that the typhoon has exposed is that amidst monstrous disaster, the nation under the leadership of President Benigno “Nonoy” Aquino could not agree to almost everything and therefore weeks after the disastrous typhoon the government response could be best described as criminally slow and ineffective. Many of those who have survived the typhoon Yolanda could barely survive the hunger, anguish and desperation.

 The General Picture and Some Hard Facts

The total number of people affected by the Typhoon Yolanda would be more than 9 million in the islands of Samar, Leyte, Northern Cebu, Negros, Panay and Busuanga. Seventy percent (70%) of the affected are in Samar and Leyte. Less than 10% of those affected and lost their houses are found in the evacuation camps which less than 2,000 in numbers. This means that around 90% are not staying in the evacuation camps. Many have gone to other islands and different parts of the country to forget about the devastation and destruction in order to stay alive. Like in the case of the city of Tacloban with 230,000 populations, more than 100,000 people have left the city to escape the aftermath of Yolanda.

The number of dead people has reached almost seven thousand and still increasing daily. It might reach more than ten thousand contradicting the limited number of deaths that the President would want to portray. At the eve of the super typhoon when the President was announcing the signal number 4 [5] strength of the typhoon he was also calling for a zero casualties and hence the extra preparation efforts. But for the first few days after the Yolanda struck its ferocious violence creating unimaginable destruction to both population and the land, a police general declared that a number of deaths might reach more than ten thousand. He was immediately relieved from his post because he dared to contradict the President’s figure.

The number of missing persons, as of last count, has reached more than two thousand and the number of wounded persons has reached more than twenty thousand.

Almost 9 million houses are totally and partially destroyed mainly in the Samar and Leyte provinces but also in the northern part of the province of Cebu, the island of Daang Bantayan (95% destroyed), islands of Negros and Panay.

The Typhoon Yolanda has caused heavy damage in agriculture especially to rice (it was harvest season when the disaster occurred), corn and coconut trees. It has been estimated that the value of the destruction on agriculture would reach almost 2 billion pesos and can reach to 24.5 billion more including the total damages and destruction in the agricultural infrastructures e.g. irrigation, roads....

Since the Super Typhoon hit the islands of the central part of the country, the coastal areas with the mangroves were not spared. Ninety to ninety five percent of the coastal resources in the islands were totally destroyed. More than fifty thousand of motorised boats (in Panay island alone) used by the fisher folks for their livelihoods were totally damaged.

The worst impact of the disaster is more on the employment aspect which is estimated to effect 5.1 million workers mainly, from agriculture who will become jobless. The 620,000 available jobs for this year would easily be wiped out after Super Typhoon Yolanda. The economic slowdown in the regions affected namely region 6, 7 and 8, is believed to be around 25% and since this contribution to the national economy is estimated to be 8% in effect affects 1% of the gross domestic product in the country. The economists are predicting that 5.5% gross domestic product will be achieved in the last quarter of this year. This means the average growth in the gross domestic product of the country will be 7% this year.

This jobless growth in the economy this year will be mainly coming from the increased remittance of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who will work harder in order to send more money especially for their affected families and relatives in the affected regions of the country. The billions of money coming from both domestic and international donors for the Yolanda victims and the reconstruction of the damaged infrastructures will also contribute to the so-called growth of the country’s economy.

 Storms of Criticism

As events began to unfold, people would want to wake up and do away with the worst nightmare they have experienced. Only to experience painful realities that the deaths and destructions in their midst are real and the more they have tried to escape from such devastation, the more they become immobilised and the feeling of helplessness would be generally observed in the hardest hit areas. Nobody could help anybody including the local government officials because they are victims themselves and their families were not spared from deaths and destructions. For the first few days or even weeks, the picture would be in frozen animation and where people were moving like literally zombies because they were in a state of shock and did not know where to start and where to go. Such situation has continued for two weeks (and as of this writing-several communities have not been reached by food and medical aids) where people have been weakened emotionally and physically for lack of foods and psychological first aids. For those who survived the destruction of the super typhoon, a challenge of how to be alive is a real struggle after more than two weeks.

The national government and its agencies were immobilised as well because they have a framework of operating only through the local government units. They (national government) seem not to know how to work in an emergency situation where local government officials are half capable or still emotionally affected and traumatized. This kind of dynamics has caused the delay or inaction of these officials to immediately respond to emergency situation where quick response would mean saving more lives.

Meanwhile, those who survived after weeks of no regular food do not have strength left to bury their dead much more to look for food to survive another day.

The worst that the survivors have experienced is having knowledge that there is literally the flooding of aids from both the international and domestic donors and solidarities but these have not reached them weeks after the disaster. With 95% of the electricity damaged, the only source of communication of survivors to the world is the media (both international and domestic). The main reason given for it not to reach the intended beneficiaries is the absence of system – where instead of having a system to serve its purpose of ensuring that the aids can immediately reach the survivors, it is the other way around, the survivors have to wait for the government system to be installed before they can partake with the urgently needed aid package (food and medicine).

The survivors have to literally beg for food in order to stay alive for another day. Meanwhile, stocks upon stocks of food can be seen in government custody and heavily guarded by the Philippine security forces (Philippine Army and Philippine National Police).

At the early days after the disaster, people have to literally loot for goods, mostly food items, to give to their families who have survived.

Another reason for the delayed response of the government is that, there is no readymade list of populations in the village level. What they (government officials) have is the voter’s lists which means it includes only the number of people from 18 years old and above. Besides this kind of reference (voter’s list) is very susceptible to “politicking” because only those who voted for the political officials in the previous elections can be given aid packages. The process/system can also serve as political investments for the coming elections for these traditional politicians whose opportunistic attitude can be seen in its ugliest form even in this worst kind of disaster.

Richard S. Solis, November 29, 2013


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