Typhoon 2013

On 2 November 2013, a storm was first detected as a low-pressure area in the Mirconesia region. In the days to follow, Typhoon Haiyan, also known as Super Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, first made landfall in Palau and parts of Mirconesia, escalating from tropical storm to Category 5 Storm status. Alerts and evacuation preparations intensified once Typhoon Haiyan entered the Philippines.

It reached peak capacity in Eastern Samar and continued to spread through Visayas, the Philippines central island group, with wind speeds ranging between 315km/h and gusts as strong as 380km/h. Typhoon Haiyan extended into the South China Sea, eventually disintegrating into rainfall over Guanxi, China. An estimated 10 000 fatalities were documented and more than 25 million people were left to recoup thereafter. This was the 13th named storm of 2013, in the Northwest Pacific Basin, and was one of the most devastating disasters to affect the region.

Gift of the Givers Response:

In the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan, we sent a 20-member team to the Philippines, comprising divers, advanced life support paramedics (specialised in water rescue), primary health-care specialists, a trauma doctor and a paediatrician. They took with them quantities of equipment designed for water rescue and the retrieval of bodies. The idea was to ferry the team and goods to Tacloban, a two-day sea voyage. However, it was finally agreed that our destination would be the island of Palompon... and we were the first international agency to reach the island.

This first team's deployment focus was to find survivors and to recover bodies, as well as providing primary health-care and treating wounds. Additional emergency supplies taken with them included vital medical supplies and medicines, delivery packs for pregnant women, foil blankets in which to wrap newborn babies, wound dressings and high-energy protein supplements. The team made additional purchases in Manila, as recommended by the National Disaster Agency and Rescue 926. Food and drinking water was procured in huge quantities. Upon arrival, our team liaised and worked jointly with Rescue 926, distributing essential supplies to affected victims.

A second medical team also made its way to the Philippines, whilst we organised container loads of additional supplies to be shipped to the disaster area, inclusive of a wide range of food products, new clothing, blankets, linen, towels, cooking pots, sanitary pads, disposable nappies and toys.

Our teams split up to cover the town of Palompon and the five districts in which 51 devastated villages were located. We found areas of massive destruction and vast numbers of people who were hungry, thirsty and in need of medical assistance. We established a series of clinics, whilst also distributing food and water to typhoon victims, as well as removing debris, clearing roads, assisting people with reconstructing their homes, repairing a maternity health centre and erecting a water tank. Maternity packs were distributed to those requiring them, Wi-Fi was re-established and repairs to a coastal lighthouse completed. We also provided a feeding scheme, providing a meal-a-day to some 10 000 people. Together with local labour, our personnel repaired the badly damaged top floor of the hospital in Palompon, including erecting 1 000 square metres of roofing in just 72 hours and repairing and replacing hospital equipment. In addition, we paid the salaries of medical staff and provided meals for all medical personnel and patients. From the hospital, we deployed members of our teams on motorbikes, or on foot, to areas with limited access. Through all this, our dieticians ensured the upskilling of local nurses.

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