Hornbill Unleashed

November 18, 2013

Disaster at our doorstep

Filed under: Alternatives — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:00 AM
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Bob Teoh

The Philippines is our close neighbour yet we are seemingly unaware that an unprecedented disaster has just swept through there leaving countless dead and millions devastated.

The Philippines is so close to us that its southern most islands are just a boat ride away from the east side Sabah. It takes just less than two hours to fly from Kota Kinabalu to Manila or below four hours from Kuala Lumpur.

There’s a disaster right at our doorstep and yet we are oblivious to it. The sky has fallen on the Pinoys and they can’t recover without international help. That includes us. That’s what neighbours are for.

The Associated press reported that while Typhoon Haiyan, or Yolanda as it is locally, appears to be the deadliest natural disaster on record to hit the Philippines, the country is no stranger to major storms.

Defined by a cruel geography, the Philippines’ location in the northwestern Pacific puts it right in the pathway of the world’s No 1 typhoon generator, according to meteorologists. Each year 20 or so typhoons hit the sprawling archipelago of some 7,000 islands.

Despite the country’s efforts to minimize the damage caused by the typhoons through a combination of preparation and mitigation measures, high death tolls and destruction persist.

In an economy characterized by chronic poverty, when disaster strikes it is the poor who suffers most.

The country is hit by more storms each year than any other nation – about four times more than countries around the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, the Associated Press quoted government meteorologist Jori Loiz as saying. It’s often the first to bear the brunt of such storms that eventually hit Vietnam and China to the west, and Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan to the north.

The Philippine archipelago, like Indonesia, is also located in the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” where earthquakes and volcanic activity are common.  A strong quake last month that killed more than 220 people and destroyed thousands of homes in the central Philippines was sandwiched between two powerful typhoons – Haiyan and Usagi, which nipped the northern Philippines in September. My wife and I were there at that time but we were in Manila, far from the disaster area. We were only inconvenienced by the floods that hit the metropolis. Yet the disaster was for real.

Typhoon Haiyan slammed into six central Philippine islands last week, killing as many as 10,000 people in the central Philippine city of Tacloban alone and millions were affected.  Our Filipino friend, Raya Gregorio, and her husband, Joey, who are missionaries in Thailand posted on Facebook: “I seriously want to go to Tacloban!” But she can’t the whole airport has disappeared except for its mud-covered runway.

Another Sabahan friend of ours, Randy, was in Palawan for a conference escaped the typhoon but went on to Facebook to find out the fate of some of his Filipino friends. “I rang his phone minutes ago, he can’t be reached. No news from him yet. I hope he and his family are safe.” Came back a response:

“Communication with Tacloban was cut off.  Saw some aftermath pictures, almost like hit by a massive tsunami. Pray that all will be well,” yet another responded.

Sin Chew Daily started a donation campaign for victims of the recent Bohol earthquake last month but even as the donations are still coming in, the newspaper has to start yet another one for disaster caused by this super typhoon. The Red Cross, United Nations and other countries are mounting emergency aid.

Other aid agencies have also started donation campaigns. One of which is World Outreach International,

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