As our ShelterBox Response Team volunteers continue to assess the damage caused by Typhoon Hagupit, which hit the Philippines earlier this month, they describe how much the island of Samar has changed in just a few weeks.
The evidence of Typhoon Hagupit, known locally as Typhoon Ruby, is clear to see in Eastern Samar, where a team made up of John Cordell (US), Richard Innes (UK), Richard Loat (CAN), Liam Norris (UK), Mike Peachey (NZ) and Brian Glenn (US) has been assessing the need for shelter.
Samar Island is among the Visayas, in the central Philippines. It is divided into three provinces, Samar province, Northern Samar, and Eastern Samar.
While many of the people residing in Eastern Samar were fortunate enough not to have felt the full force of Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines last year, they knew of the devastation it caused and were prepared when Hagupit made its way towards the country.
More than half a million people were evacuated before the storm hit, which helped to save many lives. Although the evacuation centres were the strongest buildings in each municipality, they were filled to capacity.
Now that the typhoon has passed, people have emerged from the evacuation centres to find that houses have been destroyed, debris covers everything and signs requesting help litter the road leading to the municipality of Dolores, where the typhoon first made landfall.
Infrastructure has been heavily affected too as trees lay fallen over power lines, roads remain partially blocked due to landslides and high levels of water, and flood damage is visible in many places.
The team has assessed that the need for shelter and aid along the island’s coast is everywhere. From coastal villages damaged by storm surges and flood water, to inland areas where coconut trees, the main source of income, had been flattened.
Michael Adlao, district captain in the coastal area of Mababang, lives in an area where more than 80% of his community relies on coconut trees for their livelihoods. When he met our team, he explained that not only was their evacuation centre badly damaged but that none of their coconut groves were left standing. It will take around 20 years to re-establish a crop large enough to feed the whole community, and in some ways it will take a whole generation to recover from the legacy of Typhoon Hagupit.
The team has identified that there is not only a need for immediate shelter, but tools to help rebuild homes and livelihoods. Therefore, they will be working with aid organisation Plan International to distribute tarpaulins to families, which can be used to create temporary shelters and to waterproof existing structures.
2,000 tarpaulins are en route to Eastern Samar and will be distributed throughout the rest of the week.