Reports of “utter devastation” caused by Super Typhoon Rai have continued to come in from the Philippines, where the UN is helping respond to urgent needs.
In an update posted online early on Monday, the top UN humanitarian coordinator in the archipelago, Gustavo Gonzalez, said that aid assessment teams had reached communities in need of emergency assistance at the weekend, for the first time.
They “were able to access areas and communities hit hardest” by Rai’s 195-kilometre-an-hour (121 miles per hour) sustained winds, with gusts of up to 270kph (168 mph) in central island provinces, Mr. Gonzalez said.
His role is to coordinate the response by UN agencies in the Philippines, along with NGOs and private sector partners in the country, which are working with the Government “to meet immediate needs in shelter, health, food, protection” and other life-saving actions.
According to reports, around 1.8 million people have been affected by the catastrophe and at least 208 people are confirmed dead, since the storm made landfall last Thursday.
Landslides and flooding
It is feared that this number will grow, once officials manage to confirm how many victims have perished in reported landslides and extensive flooding.
“On behalf of the UN and the Humanitarian Country Team, our message to the people of the Philippines is one of solidarity and support,” the UN Philippines aid chief said.
“We are coordinating with the Government authorities to ensure we provide timely support and are fully mobilized in addressing critical gaps and the needs of the most vulnerable.
“We also commend the professionalism of frontline responders led by Government authorities, armed forces, the Red Cross, and others involved in evacuation, search, and rescue efforts in very difficult circumstances and logistics.”
With some 300,000 people reportedly evacuated as the super typhoon pummelled central regions, immediate and priority needs include food, clean water, shelter, fuel, hygiene kits, medicines and protection services.
Haiyan memories still vivid
In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan hit many of the central provinces that were flattened last week, claiming more than 6,300 lives.
Every year, the Philippines sees an average of 25 typhoons, in addition to regular earthquakes, tidal flooding and alerts from 21 active volcanoes, which are the result of its position on the Pacific Ring Of Fire, so named because of the horseshoe-shaped active tectonic belt that fringes the Pacific basin.