Lives saved but typhoon losses grow

Power supply was crippled in many areas of the Philippines affected by Typhoon Glenda.
 
By Kristoffer Berse

MANILA, 21 July 2014 - Once more, preparedness has proven its mettle. Pre-emptive evacuation saved thousands of lives as Typhoon Glenda, internationally known as Rammasun, unleashed its fury in the Philippines, the strongest storm to visit the country since Typhoon Haiyan wrought havoc in the central, eastern and western Visayas (regions) last year.

The storm affected more than 1.6 million people and left 94 people dead, 437 injured and six missing—a relatively small number given the typhoon’s wide reach that spanned across seven regions, including Metro Manila, the national capital.

However, while this is an improvement for a country that receives about 20 typhoons annually, Typhoon Glenda also highlights the need to address a major gap in the push for overall resilience: the insufficient protection of critical infrastructure.

A total of eight provinces and 65 cities and municipalities have experienced power interruptions since 15 July.

Two days after the typhoon, major parts of Metro Manila particularly the cities of Makati, Quezon, Manila and Pasay suffered from rotational blackouts due to insufficient supply. As of today, the Manila Electric Co. (MERALCO), the private company responsible for electricity distribution in the metropolis, has still to restore electricity in 2% of its coverage areas in the capital.

Other areas devastated by Typhoon Glenda are not as fortunate. For instance, in Quezon Province, only 68% of power source has been restored, according to the latest update from the Philippines’ National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

According to Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla, restoration could take up to two weeks in the hard-hit provinces of Quezon, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon and Albay.

Typhoon Glenda further demonstrated the vulnerability of private businesses, whether big or small, in the face of weather-related hazards such as typhoons, which are expected to grow in intensity in the coming years as a result of climate change.

Many business operations were already halted even before the storm made landfall as part of the “zero casualty” policy of many local governments. However, big commercial centres such as SM Supermalls, whose head Hans Sy is a member of UNISDR’s international private sector advisory group, remained in operation and, in the process, provided temporary shelter to stranded individuals.

The recovery of small and medium-scale enterprises—especially those involved in local tourism and agriculture—will be more challenging.

For the province of Albay, the implication of lost incomes and loss of productive capacity is clear: a day of delay in rehabilitation means further income losses and more families falling deeper into poverty.

“The strategic approach is… to isolate the impacted parts and laser-beam interventions on them and keep them from spilling over into the healthy and vibrant parts of the economy like tourism, handicrafts, food and restaurants and retail trade/commerce,” Gov. Salceda said in a press release.

In the 2013 UNISDR Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, it was reported that in times of disaster businesses struggle when critical infrastructure, such as telecommunications, power or water supply is damaged. This affects longer-term competitiveness and sustainability.

Partial estimates from the NDRRMC indicate that damage to agriculture has reached US$ 145 million, while damage to infrastructure, including school facilities, is pegged at about US$ 25 million.

In Taal Lake, in the province of Batangas, another heavily devastated area, unofficial reports indicate that as much as 80% of the 6,000 fish cages have been damaged, a tremendous challenge for the recovery of local fishing communities in the days to come.

Recovery from Typhoon Glenda is expected to add pressure to the Philippine government, which is now in the middle of a gargantuan post-Haiyan reconstruction process. Typhoon Yolanda, internationally known as Haiyan, left US$ 3 billion in total damage, with more than 2.6 million people still at-risk and without durable shelter to date.
The Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction will take place in 2015 The Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction will take place in 2015.
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