Disaster relief shelter experts ShelterBox are standing by to help the islanders of Luzon in the Philippines, as 124mph winds and coastal surges have displaced an estimated 20,000 people on the country’s main island
In the largest displacement of people since Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, as many as 20,000 are thought to have fled their homes in the Philippines.
With recorded speeds of 200kph, Typhoon Koppu hit in the early hours of Sunday morning. Homes have been flattened, power lines brought down, and 4m sea surges have threatened coastal communities. But now it is heavy and continuous rain that is the main concern.
Koppu, also known as Lando, is up to 650 kilometres wide. The very slow-moving typhoon made landfall near the town of Casiguran on the island of Luzon. Luzon is the main administrational island, home to half the population of the 7,000 islands that make up the Philippines. Meteorologists predict at least a further three days of torrential rain, maybe up to a metre, which brings the possibility of landslides and flash floods. The north of the island is mountainous, so upland communities are being affected by rivers in spate.
Only two casualties have been reported so far, one a teenage boy who died when a tree toppled onto houses in the capital Manila. The Philippine Government had advance notice of Koppu’s approach, and around 7,000 people were evacuated. President Benigno Aquino made a televised warning, the first time he has done so since super-typhoon Haiyan, which killed more than 6,300.
Those in the worst hit areas may need to find their own shelter, food and water for up to 72 hours until the typhoon passes over. There will be transport challenges for aid agencies until the torrential rain ceases. Although soldiers are at work clearing main roads of debris, power and communications remain damaged over large areas, and flights, ferries and public transport are interrupted.
ShelterBox responded to Haiyan in 2013, and continued to help throughout 2014 and into this year. As well as providing emergency shelter and reaching remote communities, the charity also worked in partnership with other agencies to provide 1,700 transitional shelters made largely from locally sourced materials, designed to better withstand the Philippines’ stormy climate.
ShelterBox has aid stored at key transport hubs across SE Asia, Australia and the Gulf, which could be mobilised if required. Its Operations HQ at Helston in Cornwall has response teams ready to deploy once the storm has subsided if help is requested by the Philippine Government, and once air and sea links are restored.