Super typhoon “Yolanda” (international name: “Haiyan”) that slammed primarily the central Philippines last Nov. 8 is one of the strongest typhoons in recorded history. Weather experts concede that in terms of overall strength, Yolanda is officially the fourth strongest cyclone in world history.However, unlike Yolanda, the peak strength of the top three storms occur at the sea (all in the Pacific Ocean). Thus, Yolanda’s average strength of 314 kph (195 mph) when it barreled through several islands in the Visayas (and some in Luzon and Mindanao) has now set the all-time record for landfall strength beating the previous record set by Hurricane Camille when it landed in Mississippi in the US in 1969.Yolanda’s strength – Signal No. 4, the highest in the Philippines – was also equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane, the highest, in the Atlantic Ocean side.
Yolanda, with an enormous 600 km band of rainclouds, created tsunami-like storm surges as high as 7 to 20 feet (6 meters) and repeatedly smashed and flattened coastal towns and cities, including Tacloban City, the capital of Leyte province and the premier city in Eastern Visayas. The destruction was apocalyptic as the once vibrant communities became literally wastelands. The massive and horrific devastation and the collapse of local governments caused anarchy, including looting and hooliganism in several places a few days after the storm.
Latest government reports (as of 18 Nov. 2013) say that almost4,000 people are confirmed dead – with many corpses still scattered and unburied;over 1,500 missing; more than 18,000 injured;around 13 million people affected in 44 provinces in the Visayas and some in Luzon and Mindanao, of which more than 350,000 remain in 1,550 evacuation centers; 2.5 million people need immediate food aid, drinking water, medicines, clothes and temporary shelter; no less than3 million displaced; at least P10.4 billion in damages – P1.3 billion in infrastructures and P9.09 billion in agriculture.
After a week, relief operations were excruciatingly slow – due to a combination of immense logistical requirements, still inaccessible roads littered with debris, inefficient government plans, the local governments were literally wiped out, and the sheer magnitude of the destruction. However, little by little, international and local aid is now reaching the multitudes of hungry, thirsty, wet, injured, depressed and shocked survivors.
It is in this dilemma that the Action for Citizenship Foundation (ACF), including its major partners – Akbayan party-list, Labor Education and Research Network (LEARN), the labor center Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO), Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL), etc. – are joining together to contribute, however humbly, to this humanitarian mission to extend immediate help to the Yolanda victims. While rehabilitation is of course a must and part of the medium- and long-term goals here, but the current and crucial need to promptly send relief goods and services – ready-to-eat food, drinking water, candles and matches, clothes, medicines, and – yes – body bags to the affected areas are very, very urgent.