Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Families shelter from Typhoon Hagupit

© UNICEF Philippines/2014/Andy Brown
Typhoon Hagupit passed south of Manila, capital of the Philippines, overnight on Monday. Wind and rain brought flood risks for slum communities living near the river. In Barangay Bagong Silangan, Quezon City (part of Metro Manila), an evacuation centre was set up in a covered court on the hillside above a flood plain.

© UNICEF Philippines/2014/Andy Brown
Shane Monterosso, 20, with her 5-month old daughter Lorraine at Barangay Bagong Silangan evacuation centre. She lives with her parents in Clemencia district, where her father has a piggery. “I came here in a barangay vehicle,” she says. “My parents are securing the roof on our house, then they’ll come too. I feel worried and afraid for my child, but we’ve been well taken of here. They’ve given us food and medicine and I can breastfeed my daughter.”

© UNICEF Philippines/2014/Andy Brown
Elna Cirilo with her children Nicole, 6, and Cyrus, 5, at the evacuation centre. The family grows and sells vegetables for a living, earning around 100 pesos ($2.25 USD) per day. “We came here to get away from danger and to be secure,” Elna says. “My husband stayed behind to guard the house, but if the flood waters rise he’ll come and join us here. Our house has already flooded three times before. I’m very worried but there’s nothing I can do.”

© UNICEF Philippines/2014/Andy Brown
Just after 5pm, a barangay worker updates information on a whiteboard to show that there are now 77 families and 370 individuals in the evacuation centre. Outside, it is getting dark and the rain is increasingly heavy. People walk down the road under umbrellas, carrying their valuables and heading for the evacuation centre.

© UNICEF Philippines/2014/Andy Brown
City Administrator Aldrin Cuna (right) in the typhoon control centre at Quezon City Hall earlier in the day. That children and families were safe and secure in advance of the storm’s arrival was largely a testament to the disaster risk reduction and preparedness plans of Quezon City Government. Having learned the lessons of Typhoon Haiyan last year, the preparations, evacuation and humanitarian response for this typhoon have been exemplary across the Philippines.

© UNICEF Philippines/2014/Andy Brown
Around City Hall, emergency workers catch a few hours sleep on mats, chairs and even in stairwells. “They need to save their strength for tonight when Ruby arrives,” City Administrator Aldrin Cuna (right) says with a smile. “We deployed most of our boats and vehicles to flood prone areas on Saturday but we have a few left here and emergency staff on standby to go out wherever needed.”

© UNICEF Philippines/2014/Andy Brown
In the event, the storm weakened and passed Manila overnight with minimal damage. During the night, the population of Barangay Bagong Silangan evacuation centre rose to 229 families and 981 people. There was some overnight flooding in houses near the river, but by mid-afternoon most families had left the evacuation centre, and the rest were packing up their belongings and getting ready to go home. Compared to the tension of the night before, there was a visible sense of relief.

© UNICEF Philippines/2014/Andy Brown
Edweliza Wagas, 21, with her husband and children Jharone, 2, and Jhared, 3 months, at the evacuation centre after the storm. “We’ve been well taken care of and the food was good,” she says. “The sleeping conditions were OK but it was hot and crowded. My husband’s been back home to check the house. It was flooded earlier but now the water’s gone so we can go home. I’m so happy that the storm has passed.”

© UNICEF Philippines/2014/Andy Brown
Ten-year-old Anna Marie Almadin with her mother Lily, 46, at the evacuation centre after the storm. “It was my birthday yesterday,” Anna Marie says. “It was raining hard and I felt lonely and sad that we had no birthday cake. We’re going home now and I want to celebrate by going to Jolibee for dinner tonight.” She is suddenly overcome with emotion and buries her head in her mother’s chest, crying.

© UNICEF Philippines/2014/Andy Brown
The health centre doctor assigned to the barangay, Joselito Paulino, was pleased with how things had gone. “We’ve been here all night,” he says. “We fed people, did check-ups and gave out medication. I saw 98 patients during the storm. Most of them had acute respiratory tract infections. Some of these were existing conditions but the stormy weather made them worse. We’ll follow with them again in three days.”

© UNICEF Philippines/2014/Andy Brown
Thirteen-year-old Marie Joy Coquia (front) with her brothers Jerry Boy, 23, and Jason, 14, mother Delia, 49, and Jerry Boy’s wife. The family all work as scavengers, selling plastic waste by the kilo to junk shops. “I was happy to come here yesterday so we that could stay safe,” Marie Joy says. “The wind was strong and it was cold and raining hard. There were many people here with lots of bags of possessions. It was very crowded during the night but I was able to sleep. I’m feeling OK today and I’m happy we can go home.”

© UNICEF Philippines/2014/Andy Brown
After the storm, Elna and her children were tired but happy to be going home. “It was OK spending the night here but it was hot and crowded and I couldn’t sleep well,” Elna says. “I spoke to my husband this morning and he said the water has gone so it’s safe for us to return.” Cyrus and Nicole were also looking forward to going home and seeing their father. “I want to read a book when we get back,” Cyrus says. “I don’t mind which one, any book will do.”

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