Sunday, November 10, 2013

From the Ground: Plan's Emergency Response Team in the Philippines

Cross-post from the personal blog of Plan International’s Internal Communications Specialist in Asia, Hatai Limprayoonyong, reporting from the Philippines.

Traveling into a disaster zone is a strange thing, you leave 'normality' behind you and travel deeper into a world turned upside down by the force of nature. Plans change, the unexpected happens often and a sense of dread at what you will find on reaching your destination pervades everything.

We left Manila early this morning, heading towards Tacloban City, a city of just over 200,000 people that has, by all accounts, been completely devastated by Typhoon Haiyan (known as Typhoon Yolanda here in the Philippines).

Tacloban sits on the shores of the Philippine province of Leyte and reports are coming in of bodies lying on the streets. We don't have the latest figures to hand but some are estimating that this Typhoon has killed more than 10,000 people in Tacloban alone, a figure that's hard to comprehend.

Tacloban Airport was destroyed by the typhoon so we flew to Legaspe City, then transferred to a ferry. On the ferry we met survivors of the typhoon who had been in Tacloban. 'Everything is gone' was a common phrase. As part of our work to prepare for Typhoon Haiyan we positioned emergency supplies in the areas that would be worst hit - enough for 40,000 people. But, as the tragic stories of Typhoon Haiyan start to emerge, we are not even sure that those survived this unprecedented storm.

Mid-way through our trip we received new information about East Samar and about the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Tacloban. People there are desperate for food, water and medical supplies and are resorting to increasingly desperate measures to try and get them. After a quick discussion about the ways we could best provide assistance we diverted to a base 3 hours drive from Tacloban - and 4 hours from East Samar, a region that has been ominously quiet since the Typhoon hit on Friday.

It was incredibly frustrating not to reach our destination today but we need to make sure that we can provide the best assistance possible when we do - and that means going where we are most needed - and doing it in a way where we don't add to the problems faced by the community. From what little information we do have, we believe that East Samar was hit even harder than Tacloban. When we look at the footage of Tacloban playing on TV screens across the world it is hard to imagine a place that is hurting even more.

Tomorrow we plan to split into two groups and head to East Samar and Tacloban City - we don't know what we will find there but we will be working around the clock to assess the situation and assist the people of these badly affected areas who need our support now more than ever before.



To help ensure that families affected have the resources needed to rebuild and recover, please visit Plan’s Disaster Relief & Recovery Fund page.

We will contact sponsors directly if we receive any news about individual sponsored children. If you are planning a visit or have any particular concerns around this issue, please contact our Donor Relations staff at donorrelations@planusa.org or at 1-800-556-7918.

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