Tens of thousands of people have been left homeless in the Philippines in the wake of Super Typhoon Haima, which ravaged northern Luzon late last week. Due to excellent preparedness by local authorities and the government, the monster storm resulted in few fatalities.
But the cost in terms of infrastructure, housing and economic impact in this generally impoverished area has been high. Reports continue to come in from affected areas, showing over 60,000 homes damaged, with 14,000 completely destroyed.
Most of the people evacuated last Thursday have returned home to begin repairs or to rebuild. Many will have to live with neighbours or relatives until their homes are habitable once again.
“This latest storm illustrates once again the immense vulnerability of the Philippines to natural disasters,” said IOM’s national programme coordinator Conrad Navidad, who was one of the first responders to reach the affected areas on Friday. “So many houses here are flimsy, and the people have limited resources to make their homes stormproof. For them it’s back to zero every time a storm hits.”
The Philippines is affected by an average of 28 storms and typhoons every year, with Northern Luzon among the worst-affected areas. Haima / Lawin was the biggest storm to hit the country since Super Typhoon Haiyan / Yolanda, which left an estimated 10,000 people dead in the southern Visayas region in 2013.
The typhoon season generally runs from May to October, but occasional late-season storms, like Haiyan / Yolanda and December 2012’s Typhoon Pablo, have also wrought serious destruction.
“The unpredictability of these storms makes investment in preparedness an ongoing necessity,” noted IOM Philippines Chief of Mission Marco Boasso. “We work closely with the government, UN agencies and other partners, but it’s a constant exercise. No one notices when preparedness succeeds, only when it fails.”
The government of the Philippines has ruled out an international relief effort in the wake of Haima, but a locally-led response is anticipated. IOM is currently working alongside officials to see what help it can provide.