Canadians rush aid as Typhoon Ompong slams into PH

TORONTO, Canada – Canadians joined the international community to rush aid to the Philippines this week after Typhoon Mangkhut (also known as Ompong) devastated parts of the Southeast Asian nation before barreling into Hong Kong and mainland China.

The death toll from Typhoon Mangkhut (Ompong) in the Philippines has hit 74, with 55 missing and feared dead, mainly due to landslides in northern provinces, police said on Tuesday.

Most of the dead – about 60 – were reported from the northern Cordillera region, which includes Benguet province, where a massive landslide buried an old mining site in the town of Itogon.

Fifty-two of the missing were also from the Cordillera, according to the national police spokesman, senior superintendent Benigno Durana.

Hundreds of police officers, soldiers, emergency workers, and volunteers were helping dig through thick mud and other debris to search for the missing at the mining site in Itogon, Durana said.

Mangkhut lashed the northern Philippines last Saturday for about 20 hours before departing towards southern China.

More than 236,000 residents were displaced by the typhoon, which also forced the cancellation of nearly 300 domestic and international flights. It also disrupted sea travel, according to the risk reduction council.

At least 1,264 houses were destroyed by Mangkhut, while damage to agriculture was estimated to be worth 270 million dollars, the council said.

Electricity was cut off to 159 areas in seven provinces, affecting more than 4 million people. Power has been restored to only 45 areas, disaster relief officials said.

Foreign aid has begun to pour in for the typhoon victims, with the European Union, Japan, China and Canada offering assistance to the affected areas.

“Canada stands ready to assist as appropriate to help areas affected by the super typhoon,” Global Affairs Canada said in a statement.

“Canada offers its sincerest condolences to the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives, and we hope for a swift recovery for those injured,”.

ShelterBox Canada has been sending boxes filled with industrial grade tents for shelter and other emergency supplies will go out to some of the most remote areas in the northern Philippines.

“We have aid stored in the Philippines to help 2,000 families, and then we have other aid in the region that we can bring in if more is needed after that,” Stephanie Christensen, executive director of Shelterbox’s Canadian branch, told CBC Toronto.

The boxes will include essentials like water purification, solar lights, cooking equipment, blankets, and mosquito nets, but Christensen says it’s too soon to know if there will be enough to go around.

Christensen added that there has been a surge of online donations to ShelterBox for victims of Mangkhut since Saturday, but they are still in need of more help.

CARE Canada on its website said it immediately sent an emergency response team to Cagayan ahead of the typhoon’s landfall. Jerome Lanit, CARE’s Emergency Coordinator, shared that the team experienced howling winds and pounding rain while staying in Tuguegarao City.

“CARE has also brought some supplies shelter repair materials ready to be distributed to the affected families. Our teams continue to coordinate with local officials and humanitarian responders on the ground to effectively address the immediate needs of the affected population,” said David Gazashvili, CARE Philippines Country Director.

“We have seen several damaged houses and blown off roofs. The evacuation center in a coastal community we visited in Aparri was even damaged. Also, rice and corn plantations are severely affected. The farmers weren’t able to do an emergency harvest because the crops were immature. The northernmost towns of Cagayan are believed to be badly hit and it is still difficult to access these areas as of the moment,” said Madel Montejo, CARE Philippines Emergency Response Team Member.

“The people say they need food, water, dry clothes, and shelter repair materials,” added Montejo.

The World Meteorological Organisation billed the storm as the strongest tropical cyclone the world has faced so far this year. Mangkhut is the 15th storm to hit the Philippines in 2018.

The United States and Australian government on Sunday announced the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the Philippines after Typhoon Ompong battered northern Luzon on Saturday.

In a statement, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Canberra will provide the Philippines humanitarian supplies for the emergency response, including sleeping mats, blankets, hygiene and shelter kits, for up to 25,000 people in the most-affected areas.

Payne said Australia’s contribution of supplies, worth 800,000 Australian dollars, will be distributed by the Philippine Red Cross.

Meanwhile, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) relayed the provision of 1,000 metric tons of rice to northern Luzon, through the United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP).

“With USAID/OFDA disaster risk reduction support, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is coordinating with DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) to provide humanitarian logistics support for Super Typhoon Ompong response activities, including transporting 1,000 metric tons of rice to be used in emergency food parcels for storm-affected populations in northern Luzon,” a statement from the US Embassy in Manila read.

It added that the UN WFP also helped improve the government’s response readiness for the storm by pre-positioning generators, storage tents, and other logistics equipment in WFP warehouses in Luzon.

Meanwhile, Save the Children Philippines is also sending two more humanitarian teams to typhoon-ravaged towns in northern Luzon to assess the situation and deliver emergency kits as the affected, composed mostly of children and lactating mothers, are camped in evacuation sites.

After devastating the Philippines, Mangkhut hit Hong Kong and the Chinese province of Guangdong. –  Asian Pacific Post

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